Riv posted about the importance of dominance and leadership, and of his personality traits of preferring to avoid conflict. That gave me the opportunity to riff on the subject of personality change:

Many of the personality traits you describe are malleable. Operant conditioning can make dramatic personality changes, and people can find that they are not the same person they were five years ago. My personality routinely is dramatically different than five years ago.

Avoidance of conflict is something I can point to in myself as something that has dramatically changed since I was in my twenties, and even thirties. It changed through having conflicts. I just got used to it, plus routinely found benefit in conflict. It’s still more pleasant not to have conflict, as I don’t have the pathology of having a high conflict personality, however I’m now very quick to initiate conflict – even extreme conflict – when I feel it required. And of course that’s a huge help.

I’m mostly familiar with conflict with my girls, as I’m usually living with some girl or dating several, so I’ve had decades of hours of interaction with girls – and plenty of opportunities for conflict. But some girls I could show mostly my sweet side and there was very rarely conflict. My last Chinese V for instance. Never once raised my voice with her, never once had to discipline her in any way. She would have been marriage material if only she was smaller and cuter – incredible personality – very respectful of boundaries. Smart. She broke up with me eventually after not being able to stand the constant heartbreak of me seeing other girls. All because I forgot to clean out the used hair cream sachets from the toilet waste-bin.

Anyway, I’m still getting used to conflict with employees, as even simple constant interaction with them is something I’ve avoided. But it’s just a matter of practice.

Authority of all kinds is just a matter of practice.

If you start to manage people, your personality will adjust, and you will get better at it. Your tolerance for interpersonal conflict will with complete certainty increase. And your skill at conflict will go up. It’s possible that you will even start to see more benefit in the risk/benefit side of conflict, and become skillful and capable in initiating conflict. And not doubting yourself about not needing to initiate it.

Business can be a good way to bring out these managerial aspects of personality. Here in Indonesia it’s inexpensive to control a whole group of people, including secretaries, various staff, cooks, house cleaners, etc. Girlfriends seem to just be added on to staff, and you can start to order them around, constantly telling them what tasks to do for you.

People like it. People like to follow. People like it that a man is in charge. It gives them a feeling of security, direction, and belonging. Most people are genetically predisposed to follow, and are most comfortable following. Women especially.

And putting yourself into that situation makes you into the person who is in charge. Who expects to be in charge. Who is a leader. You’ll find a certain haughtiness in yourself even when interacting with so called authority figures, because you have so throughly taken on the role as THE authority. Some petty parking lot attendant wants to make you reposition your motorcycle to point handlebars in instead of handlebars out? You see him as a low ranking know nothing who doesn’t understand his place in the grand scheme of things and walk away. He barks at you as you walk away? You bark right back, much much louder, and keep walking. Some cop is shaking you down for money? You are unruffled, smile, and easily negotiate a fee that a local would pay. Because you FEEL like the authority. He is not the authority, just because of his badge. You OWN authority, because you ARE authority. In your bearing he sees that you are unruffled, and so he is unruffled, and you both laugh and money changes hands and you are on your way, no problems. While your intern routinely gets shaken for 700,000 rupiah, you never pay more than 100,000, and that’s when you don’t simply keep driving past the cop trying to pull you over.

Being a leader makes you into a leader.

And that means learning when to conflict, and being adept at it. Of course it’s a never ending process. It feels as if even after 5 years of having staff, I’m only starting my journey. I suppose that’s because only now am I taking a much more hands on and micro-managing approach to working with my team.