Dear Vicki: Abby, my close friend and business partner, has been acting very strange lately. We have a small public relations firm and she’s the organization and power behind it. I’m the enthusiasm and presentation side. It’s worked out really well and our little firm has grown steadily over the past five years. The problem is that our business is stalling right now because Abby hasn’t been very organized or powerful lately. She’s been low-key, distant, and sort of stuck in the past. When I ask her what’s going on, she denies that anything is wrong. I know her only daughter recently moved out of state, but Abby made it through a contentious divorce a few years ago, so I can’t imagine Shelley’s move would affect her this way. As her business partner, I feel it is my responsibility to let Abby know we need her to snap out of it. What can I do to help Abby get back in the saddle? Signed, Losing Steam
Dear Losing Steam: It appears that you and Abby have a great set-up in your business. As the organization and power behind your firm, I suspect that Abby’s normal elemental personality is Wood. As we have said here many times, Wood people are focused visionaries who are great at running things. You, on the other hand, sound like a primary Fire personality. Fire people are nothing if not enthusiastic. They also are comfortable in front of others, which makes them excellent actors, salespeople, and presenters. Finally, you and Abby relate to each other on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model, with Abby’s Wood feeding your Fire, which as long as you both stay balanced, works great for everyone.
I believe that the key to your current problem rests in the fact that, at the moment, Abby is not a balanced Wood personality. In fact, I think it’s possible that she isn’t acting from her Wood personality at all these days and that’s what’s hurting your business. It sounds like what’s happening for Abby is that she’s experiencing a temporary stint as an out of balance Metal personality. When you describe Abby’s behavior as low-key, reserved, and stuck in the past, you are definitely describing characteristics of an out of balance Metal person.
Dear Vicki: I have been an elementary school principal for decades and love my work. My goal is always to keep the school running in an appropriate manner and support the students, who I care about deeply. Last year, I started at a new school and one of the teachers there, we’ll call her Jane, was a real challenge to manage. I’m dreading working with her again this year. She is outgoing and often very flighty. She agrees to attend meetings, then doesn’t show up. Or if she does show, she’s kidding around so much we can’t get down to business. The students all love her and think she’s fun, but they don’t have to manage her. Honestly, I do like her and want to do right by her, but I’m having a hard time keeping her in line. Any hints on how to make this year more successful than last? Signed, Burned in Bellevue
Dear Burned: This is an understandably difficult situation. Based on your description, I suspect that Jane is a primary Fire personality, which means she will be a lot of fun, very popular, and also difficult to contain. You sound like you care about doing a good job and have very specific ideas of how you want things run. But Fire people have very little structure, so usually aren’t great at coloring inside the lines, so to speak. And yet, there are definitely ways you can engage with Jane to help bring her onboard.
Based on your deep caring for your students and your goal to keep the school running in an appropriate manner, it is likely that you are a primary Earth personality with a strong secondary Metal personality. Earth people usually care deeply about children and Metal people care deeply about doing what is right or appropriate. The good news is that the Earth part of your personality should get on well with Jane. In the Five Elements model, Earth and Fire relate on the Nurturing Cycle with Fire feeding Earth. This implies that, if you were honest with yourself, you probably enjoy Jane as much as the students do. The challenge for you rests in the relationship between your strong secondary Metal personality and Jane’s Fire personality.
Dear Vicki: For 48 years, my parents had a happy marriage. They seemed the perfect couple to me: she loved being a stay at home mother and he loved being the proverbial breadwinner for the family (he ran his own consulting firm). They raised three happy children, loved their grandchildren, but always took time for themselves, too. Sadly, my father passed away a year ago and not unexpectedly, my mother has taken it really hard. Since then, she hasn’t been able to find joy in life and seems to have pulled away completely. In many ways it feels like we lost both of them when Dad died. I’m wondering if there is any way to bring my mom back; we all miss her terribly. Thanks for any advice you can offer. Signed: Orphaned in Oregon
Dear Orphaned: When a couple has enjoyed a long and happy marriage, it isn’t uncommon for the surviving spouse to have a difficult time adjusting to life alone. It can be especially hard for people with primary Earth personalities because long-term connections give meaning to their lives. And I think that’s basically what’s going on for your mother; as a stay at home mother of three there is no doubt in my mind that she is a primary Earth personality. And while the loss of a 48-year relationship will be hard for any of us, it can be especially devastating for an Earth person.
However, the flip side of the situation is that sometimes it can be easiest to bring Earth people back from the despair of loss if there are other deep and meaningful relationships still in their lives. These relationships can help them create a new version of how things were before their loss. Fortunately for your mother, it sounds like this is the case for her. She has loving children and grandchildren who clearly want her back in their lives on a regular basis, and that will help you a great deal.
Dear Vicki: I read your blog regularly and have enjoyed learning about the elemental personalities. Based on what you’ve written, I think I may be a primary Fire personality because, before I had children, I loved going to parties, I was very spontaneous, and would often say yes to something before I thought it through. My problem is that my best friend in the world moved away six months ago for an exciting opportunity as a corporate planner with a large firm. Maisy loves the job, but I really miss her. For several months I’ve been telling her how much I miss her and she always asks when we’re going to get together. I have three young children, so can’t easily travel, and Maisy doesn’t have much vacation time yet, so we haven’t been together since she moved. Last night, while talking on the phone, I told her again how much I miss her and she exploded, asking me why I keep telling her that if I’m not going to do anything about it. What is going on? Signed, Missing Maisy
Dear Missing Maisy: This is an interesting problem, and one that really makes sense when you consider the elemental personalities involved. It does sound like you are a primary Fire personality for all the reasons you shared in your letter. As a Fire, you do want connections and will miss them when they are gone. The other elemental personality that really values connections, especially long-term ones, is the Earth personality. And since you have three small children and clearly must love being a mom, I suspect you probably have Earth as your secondary elemental personality.
Being a Fire/Earth personality combination will make connections all the more important to you. It will also make letting go of long-term relationships of any kind that much harder. With both Fire and Earth energy as the dominant force in your personality, it will be very natural – and truly a compliment from your soul – to tell Maisy how much you miss her whenever you can. But it’s clear that Maisy doesn’t get your meaning, which likely has to do with her elemental personality.
Dear Vicki: I like your blog but haven’t seen many questions from guys. Here’s one and I hope you can help me; I’m having a problem with my sister, Anita. I’m 24 and she’s 22 and we’ve been close most of our lives. We are both working our way up the corporate ladder, although in different companies, and months ago set up to go to a business seminar together in a nearby city. We planned to drive there and back with each other and make a whole day of it. I know I’d been looking forward to it, and I think Anita had, too. Well, last week she called and told me that while she will drive to the event with me, she’s going to go straight from it to a “girls only” party at a friend’s nearby cabin. Now, I’m a big boy and can certainly drive home alone, but it feels like she’s dumping me and part of our time together for something else, which sort of sucks. Signed, Dumped Dude
Dear Dumped Dude: It’s very interesting that both you and your sister would end up in business. And that you are both “working your way up the corporate ladder” implies that you must both be primary Wood personalities. Wood people do well in business and, given their emphasis on the future, are usually very focused on getting ahead. The big difference between you and Anita is in the secondary element of your personalities. Anita’s ability to quickly change plans, especially in the name of fun, suggests she has Fire as her secondary personality. Your hurt at her changing plans suggests you probably have Earth as your secondary personality.
It’s very understandable that you would feel dumped by your sister. Your Wood personality will have specific expectations for your time together with Anita and those expectations matter. Also, Wood is the planning element and honoring plans, once made, also matters a lot to Wood people. On the surface, it would seem that, as a fellow Wood, Anita should feel the same way. And at one level, she probably does. If you asked her, I’m sure she’d say that the time with you and your plans together are very important to her. So why did she change them slightly and why is it bothering you so much? The answer lies in the significant difference between your secondary elemental personalities.