Dear Vicki: I’m writing about my partner Lizzie. We’ve run a small auction business for several years and have done really well. I love seeing what comes in and the challenge of researching its history. I run our office, but Lizzie literally runs the auctions. She is engaging, outgoing, funny, and makes running the events look easy. Or at least she used to. Our auction house burned down several months ago and while I took it philosophically—that’s what insurance is for—Lizzie was devastated. I’ve done everything I can think of to get her to see things the way I do, but nothing I’ve said or done has perked her up. Not even breaking ground for our new building. It’s like she’s really burned out or something and the more I try to help her, the worse she gets. I’m fine doing this alone, but I miss Lizzie’s sunshine. How can I help her get enthusiastic again? Signed, Gloomy in Glendale
Dear Gloomy: I’m so sorry about the fire. It’s surely a traumatic event for both of you, but based on your primary elemental personalities, it is probably something that will be easier for you to get over than for Lizzie. But there are ways for each of you to heal, so let’s look at your primary elemental personalities and see what we can do.
The fact that you manage the details of the business, love to research the history of the pieces that come in, and have approached the fire in a philosophic fashion makes me suspect that you are a primary Metal personality with a secondary Water personality. The Metal part of your personality will absolutely love the history of the pieces you sell because Metal people tend to appreciate the past. And no elemental personality does details like the Metal personality. However, your philosophic approach to the fire and loss is something we often see in the Water personality. Water people care less about things and more about ideas and meaning. You don’t mention it, but it wouldn’t be out of character for the Water part of your personality to wonder what the meaning was behind the fire or why the fire happened at all.
Dear Vicki: I’m a married mother of one who works in Manhattan. For three years I’ve also served as the president of our condo association. We have a congenial board and I keep our meetings pleasant, but efficient; we all have plenty of other things we need to be doing. That all changed four months ago when “Laura” joined the board. She is cheery, but opinionated. Productive, but assertive. Upbeat, but bossy. We clashed almost immediately, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why. The best I can say is that for every suggestion I make, she has an alternative version. If I say we should have something signed by Friday, she’ll say she thinks Monday is soon enough. If I bring paint samples in for the laundry area, she’ll suggest the colors should be “more gray.” She is difficult to work with (honestly, I’m angry with her most of the time), but apparently, she isn’t going anywhere, so what can I do? Signed, Bossed Around Boss
Dear Bossed: Actually, this is a fairly straightforward issue and will make complete sense if we look at your primary elemental personalities. The fact that you are running a board, like efficiency, and assume everyone wants to be doing things makes me suspect you are a primary Wood personality. Always “doing,” liking to make things happen, running the show, and not appreciating it when your authority is challenged are all pretty basic hallmarks of the Wood personality, as is the resulting anger when forward movement is impeded.
And here’s the rub: the words you use to describe Laura – opinionated, productive, upbeat, assertive, bossy – are also very characteristic of the Wood personality. So, this means that you and Laure are probably both primary Wood personalities.
Dear Vicki: I’m wondering if you can help me with my new boyfriend. I’ve been dating Skip ever since we met at a friend’s party about six months ago and it’s been a blast! He’s funny, outgoing, and really exciting to be with. His hobby is stand-up comedy and he focuses on performing for charity events. He’s got a big heart, too. The problem is that I’m also funny and outgoing, so there are many times when we seem to be competing for the spotlight. We aren’t seeing other people anymore, but do we have a chance of staying together? Signed, Funny in Fresno
Dear Funny: Do you and Skip have a chance of staying together? Absolutely! Any relationship can work if we take the time to understand each other and our relationship tendencies. And that’s where the Five Elements model comes in – it’s a wonderful tool for understanding our personalities and how they relate to each other. In your case, it’s pretty easy to determine what elemental personalities you and Skip have. As outgoing, funny people who enjoy the spotlight, it’s a good bet that you and Skip are both primary Fire personalities.
A big priority for Fire personalities is connecting with other people, and parties are a great place to do that. The challenge is that Fire people also love to keep moving, so not many of their quick meetings from parties turn into long-lasting relationships. The fact that you and Skip are still together six months later speaks well of your chances. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that there are very specific challenges that come with a Fire/Fire relationship. Knowing them upfront will help a great deal.
Dear Vicki: My sister Cate used to be a pretty trusting, optimistic person. Growing up, she always looked on the bright side of things and tended to see the good in life. She was, and still is, a bit of a loner, too. It was always clear she preferred reading or weaving over loud parties, and that hasn’t changed. Cate also has a soft spot for cats and is always taking in strays. She has a home studio as a decorator and I think they keep her company. I love my sister but have noticed over the years that she seems more likely to assume the worst in a given situation, rather than the best. She doesn’t trust anyone or anything anymore (except her six cats) and appears really frightened about what’s going on in the world these days. Is there any way I can help her return to some version of her trusting, optimistic self? Signed, Worried Sister
Dear Worried Sister: It’s understandable that you want to help Cate return to a happier state of being and there are definite ways you can do that. But first I want to suggest that, if you think it’s warranted, you encourage Cate to seek professional help. You will know if that’s necessary, so enough said, but it’s important to remember.
For now, let’s start by taking a look at Cate’s likely elemental personality. From your description, it’s pretty clear that Cate is a primary Water personality. Water people definitely tend to be loners with a keen awareness of their inner resources. This means that, when balanced, they usually trust that they can handle whatever life brings. Water people also view life through the filter of depth, so deep, profound issues (like world peace) matter a lot to them.
The fact that Cate has six cats and they are her only connections right now suggests that her secondary elemental personality is Earth. It is very likely that having six cats to take care of may have caused her to build her Earth energy to such a degree that it is negatively affecting the Water part of her personality. In the Five Elements model, Water and Earth relate on the Controlling Cycle, with Earth controlling Water. If the Earth part of her personality is over-energized from cat duty, it could have decreased the Water part of her personality to the point that she has lost the optimism and trust that comes with a balance Water personality.
Dear Vicki: A supervisor at my brother’s company is retiring in the spring and Jim has been asked to apply for his job. Jim thinks it’s a great idea: He’ll make more money and because it’s a supervisory position, he thinks he’ll also work fewer hours. My concern is that Jim is someone who has always loved starting things or making them better, and spends a lot of time in his current position doing just that. I really think the “hands-on” approach he takes now is what the company appreciates about him. But in a more supervisory position, I’m concerned that “hands-on” will be seen as interfering or controlling in a job where he’s just supposed to support ongoing operations. How do I talk him out of this change? Signed: Worried Sis
Dear Worried Sis: Jim is very lucky to have a sister who knows him so well. Your concerns are certainly justified, but there might be ways Jim’s time in the new job could be positive. Let’s take a look at his primary elemental personality and then consider the possible pros and cons of Jim taking the new position.
Based on your description, I suspect Jim is probably a primary Wood personality. Wood people are usually pretty hands-on in their work. They almost always see ways to improve things, too, and are excited (some might say impatient) about getting started. It takes a lot to talk a Wood personality out of a new project or improvement because they love the movement that comes with creating and manifesting almost anything. People often think that the Wood personality is never satisfied, but that’s not really it. Wood people just always see creative opportunity; it’s in their core wiring. A Wood person doesn’t look at something and think, “That sucks.” They look at something and think, “What if?” They really are visionaries.