Dear Vicki: I’m writing about a co-worker of mine who I’m pretty sure is a Metal. Jim always follows the rules, arrives exactly at 8am and leaves exactly at 5pm, and is fastidious in his work. We’ve been at the same small structural design firm for several years and usually get along just fine. But for the past few months, Jim’s acting like a completely different guy. He used to be pleasant and a hard worker, but now he is often what my grandmother used to call “prickly.” He’s argumentative, disagreeable, and makes rude or insulting comments under his breath (but still loud enough to be heard). We’ve ignored this at work – our office manager says Jim is going through his second divorce – but it’s really becoming uncomfortable. I dread going to work for fear that a loud argument will break out between Jim and Frank, our sales manager, who can be overbearing himself. Is there something I can do to help Jim, and other people in our office, stay happy with each other? Signed Worried in Wisconsin
Dear Worried: Jim is lucky to have such a caring and considerate co-worker. He does sound like a Metal, and while you don’t mention your element, I suspect you are a combination of Metal and Earth. To enjoy structural design work suggests that you have the meticulousness and precision of a Metal. But it’s your Earth that’s upset about Jim’s rudeness and the potential for conflict at your small office. Your sincere desire to help Jim also speaks of Earth. And Frank, your sales manager, may well be a Wood because the outgoingness of Woods usually makes them great at sales. The fact that he’s a Wood will also make Frank more sensitive to out of balance energy coming from Jim. Let’s take a look at how you might help Jim and your office “stay happy with each other.”
First, it’s important to remember that you, as an Earth, relate to Jim on the Nurturing Cycle, with your Earth feeding Jim’s Metal. This will make you feel somewhat “motherly” toward Jim and is probably a factor in your desire to help him. Frank, on the other hand, relates to Jim on the Controlling Cycle, with Jim’s Metal controlling Frank’s Wood. This dynamic alone can create an undercurrent of tension in your office; Woods usually don’t like to be controlled. And as an aside, you probably do find Frank somewhat overbearing because he relates to you on the Controlling Cycle, with his Wood controlling your Earth. The fact that your Metal controls Frank’s Wood probably allows you to hold your own with him, but it’s your Earth that wants peace in the kingdom.
Dear Vicki: I’m having trouble with my brother, Sam. We’re both adults – he’s a successful attorney and I’m a nurse – but he’s acting like a spoiled child. Last month was our parents’ 40th wedding anniversary and at my suggestion, their children (me, Sam, and our two brothers) all chipped in to send them on a cruise. The night before they left, we had dinner together and I brought a small “bon voyage” gift for Mom and Dad. Well, Sam didn’t like that. He accused me of trying to make him look bad, currying favor with our parents, and several other less choice motives, which really hurt my feelings. Of course, I was just trying to honor our parents, but Sam refuses to believe me. I’ve reached out to him, but this time he won’t return my calls. He’s divorced, so I can’t ask his wife for help now, either. It breaks my heart to have this rift with him. Why is he like this, and what can I do? Signed: Sad Sister
Dear Sad Sister: It was very thoughtful of you and your siblings to send your parents on a cruise for their anniversary. I hope they had a fantastic time.
I’m sorry about the problems with Sam, but your comment that “this time” he won’t return your calls suggests it isn’t the first time you two have had an issue like this. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising. While you don’t mention what elements you are, it’s likely that you’re an Earth. The fact that the cruise was your idea, your thoughtfulness in bringing a bon voyage gift, and your heartbreak at a “rift” with a sibling all suggest you live life through a filter where personal connections are very important. Helping people also matters a lot to Earths, and few of us on the planet help people more than nurses do.
Sam, on the other hand, is clearly not an Earth. Lawyers usually have a great deal of Wood or Metal, depending on whether they’re corporate or trial attorneys. Success matters to both, but Woods will usually personalize the success more than Metals. The anger that Sam is expressing also suggests that he’s more Wood than Metal. Metals like to be honored, of course, but Woods want to look good in front of people. As a Wood, if stressed or out of balance, Sam could easily have construed your sweet departure gift as an attempt to make him look bad, something Woods can’t stand. The idea that you would “curry favor” at his expense carries a sense of competition, which is also much more of a button-pusher for Woods than Metals. A Metal usually knows his own worth and can detach from the challenge. But out of balance Woods will often rise to anything they perceive as bait in order to prove themselves.