From joker to leader, we’re all playing a role, but your persona could be holding you back. Get the inside track on how to break free
By Helen Russell
Are you Little Miss Mouse, who can’t say no, or perhaps Little Miss Joker, with a gag for any situation? We all have roles that get us through life. “We adapt ourselves for smoother interactions in different situations,” explains psychologist Dr Ilona Jerabek. “The way we talk and behave around friends is unlikely to be the same as the way we act with a manager, but there are four common types that most of us fit into.” Take our test to work out your role, then discover why you act the way you do and how to make changes for the better.
How it works Read the statements below and ask yourself how you would react. Then tot up the number of As, Bs, Cs and Ds you score.
After arriving at work on Monday morning, you…
A Assign tasks for the day and set deadlines.
B Fire up your computer and start typing immediately.
C Ask your boss if the presentation they’ve requested is really necessary.
D Tell the girls about your hilarious date last night.
You’re helping to organise a friend’s birthday bash. You…
A Appoint teams to take charge of food, decorations, music and drinks.
B Bake 200 cupcakes then spend four hours setting up for the do.
C Wonder out loud whether birthday parties are really worth the hassle.
D Offer to provide the entertainment and break into your Beyoncé routine.
Looking at holiday brochures with your other half, you…
A Consult your diary, pick your only free week and tell him it has to be Hawaii.
B Say you don’t mind where you go as long as you’re together.
C Announce that you’d rather wing it and go backpacking on your own.
D Try to keep a totally straight face as you tell him you’ve always fancied potholing in Yemen.
The boss is off sick and there’s a row over who’s in charge. You…
A Nominate yourself and start laying down the law.
B Agree to go along with whoever shouts the loudest. Anything for a quiet life.
C Demand a military-style coup to overthrow the management.
D Crank up the music and crack open the bubbly. Well, it would be rude not to.
The Leader Of The Pack
You’re assertive and naturally take charge. “Leaders tend to be extroverted and fun to be around,” says Dr Jerabek. “But they are opinionated and controlling.” This can make it hard for them to keep friends. Leading the way can also be stressful. “There’s only room for one leader,” says Paul Matthews, founder of business training company People Alchemy. “You may have to fight to stay at the top.”
Change “A good leader knows when to take charge and when to relinquish power,” says Dr Jerabek. Shouldering responsibilities and telling other people what to do is tiring, so it’s good to relinquish control sometimes. “It’s essential to know when to let go,” she adds. Also, accept the fact that when you hand over power, things might not get done the same way you’d do them. Once a week, hand something over at work or with your mates/boyfriend. Whether it’s letting your man do chores his way or allowing a colleague to go into a meeting with your boss instead of you, you’ll find that the world doesn’t implode.
The Flexible Follower
You’re a team player and try to soothe tensions. “Followers are good listeners and easy to get along with,” says Dr Jerabek. “They avoid conflict, giving in to what other people want.” This may make you a great mate, but followers can come across as pushovers, especially at work and within relationships.
Change If you want to bag a promotion or stand up to a bossy friend or lover, assertiveness training may help. “Working on confidence can stop you backing down in tricky situations,” says Dr Jerabek. To do this, work out your strengths. “Make a list of what you’re good at, asking others for input.” Also, observe the behaviour of leaders you admire – anyone from your boss to Barack Obama will do! For a self-esteem boost, download the Build Confidence with Andre Johnson hypnotherapy app (£1.99, iTunes). It features a guided meditation seminar designed to boost your confidence.
The Devil’s Advocate
You’re a tricky customer and don’t take orders lying down. “Some people pick holes in everything and have to offer advice constantly,” explains Dr Jerabek. “They thrive on challenging others. A relationship with a devil’s advocate will never be boring!”
Change “Having a critical eye can be helpful, but nitpicking can get out of hand,” says Dr Jerabek. “For day-to-day concerns, work on compromise.” Like to keep a show home but live with a slob? Learn to meet him halfway. So if he remembers to put his socks in the laundry basket, don’t stress over his pile of newspapers on the coffee table. Office newbie doing the filing wrong? Show her how you do it, then let her decide which way’s best. “Imagine being around someone who finds fault with everything you do,” says Dr Jerabek. “You probably wouldn’t like them much.” So before you comment, imagine it’s you being spoken to and bite your tongue.
The Class Clown
You’re always “on” and love to make others laugh. “Being jokey and entertaining is a good way to break the ice, and can even cover up shyness,” says Dr Jerabek. Class clowns are fun to be around but have trouble taking things seriously. And being taken seriously themselves.
Change “Not everyone likes someone making light of serious concerns,” says Dr Jerabek, meaning you could annoy people. “Look at other’s body language,” she advises. If you’re joking and the other person draws their face or shoulders away from you, stop, as they’re probably uncomfortable. “Roles are flexible and most of us can adopt a few roles,” says Paul, so learn to switch personas. “When you’re a project manager at work, step into a leadership role,” says Dr Jerabek. “And when you’re brainstorming ideas, try to be devil’s advocate.”