003 | The Coxswain’s Personality
Racing intro sounds
ANNE: Welcome to CoxPod - a podcast for coxswains. I'm Anne, I'm Breana, and I'm Sally and we are three coxswains with a combined 50 years experience in the seat. We have decided to share our knowledge with coxswains everywhere via this podcast and ultimately we hope to create a community among our audience where coxswains everywhere can learn from each other. This episode is entitled 'The Coxswain's Personality'. When people tend to think of coxswains, they probably are picturing a certain personality type and our listeners will know really what that is - a loud, bossy, Napoleonic person who is in charge of the situation no matter what. Even in popular culture, people know that the coxswain is - and I loathe to say this - the little one who sits in the back and says 'Row, row, row'.
BREANA: Yeah, I think that's loathsome for all of us, but very common. I'm sure our audience will relate. And oftentimes, you know, I found that in recruiting scenarios even, people are often looking exclusively for someone who outwardly displays that particular personality type and I would venture to say - and what we're going to try to argue here - is that that narrow-minded focus might actually be a mistake. You could be missing coxswains who would be excellent assets to your team. And this whole day is kind of about talking about personality types and their strengths and weaknesses, and what lends itself best to coxing. So let's dive in!
ANNE: Right. And on today's episode, as Breana has said, we are going to be talking about personalities. And it turns out that the three of us are introverted coxswains. So we three introverted coxswains are going to talk about how we've succeeded in the sport despite not modeling the typical coxswain personality. You know, in the rowing world there's a lot of value to understanding yourself and understanding others, and really getting a grasp about how others perceive you, and one possible way of doing that is to understand your personality type. You want to also be flexible enough to layer on appropriate skills that may not come naturally to you, and I know I've had to do that myself. And we're going to learn a little more about how the others have layered on skills. But these expanded skills will ultimately strengthen your ability to work with the team. In working together over the years, each of us has recognized we have a lot of similarities. As I mentioned, we've found that we're all introverted. And we also have a lot of differences. So let's explore a little bit more about the similarities - that we are all intensely introverted.
SALLY: So I learned a cox in a very, very competitive - very, very caustic environment - and one of the things I loved in finding a community with you and Breana was that, while we are intensely different people - we are from different generations, we're from different geographical regions,
Breana does this strange science thing (which I don't fully understand although she has patiently explained to me like a billion times) - there are things that unite us. And you know, they're the obvious: we are all generally from the east coast, we're all within spitting distance of I-95, you know we're all introverts, we're all women, we're all of European descent. But it's more than that, and the fact that we love the water and that there's something deeper and more engaging that keeps bringing us back. And I think exploring how Breana would handle the situation in her very scientific and calculating way, and how Anne would handle the situation in her feeling and calculating way, and how I would just calculate - speaks very much to our differences but also there's some certain commonalities that keep driving us together. And there's so much I want to learn from the two of you ... because how your natural instincts when you approach a situation are not mine, and learning and understanding how you interact with your crew ... learning how you think about steering ... really only makes me a better person. So I think understanding our personalities goes a long way into talking about celebrating our differences and making a more diverse community.
BREANA: And part of what is going to make us aware of our differences is something like a personality test. And the test that we took that is kind of forming the foundation of where we're headed for today, is freely available online - it's at 16personalities.com and it will be linked in our show notes. It doesn't require you to log in to take it or anything. You can just go right to the website and answer some questions and learn about your personality type. If you've never done so before, we would highly encourage you if you haven't had the opportunity to do that in the past, to just pause the recording here and come back to the episode after you've had the opportunity to do that. That will enable you to get the most out of what we're talking about today. Or save that url for later, and after you've listened to us talk about our personality types, you can let us know on our Slack channel and on our social media accounts what your type was and kind of how that relates to your strengths and weaknesses as a coxswain in the way that we're going to talk about them. So we encourage you to join the conversation, and we would love to get a diverse array of responses from coxswains out there. Again, we among us have a little bit of diversity but not all that much, so we would love to hear from you in the audience and learn about that. And what you'll find as you take this test is a variety of questions that kind of present you with a scenario and ask you to agree or disagree with it. And so for instance, one of these items I'll just read through a few is: 'You are still bothered by the mistakes you made a long time ago'.
SALLY: That's not me ... that's never been me ...
ANNE: I've never made mistakes ever ...
SALLY: I do not spend weeks at night rethinking calls I made in 1994 ... nope, not me.
ANNE: We know how you answered this question now Sally, don't we?
BREANA: Another one related, you know: 'If you make a mistake, you tend to start doubting yourself, your abilities, or your knowledge'. Very relevant for coxswains. A lot of people might be resonating with this. Another one: 'You can stay calm under a lot of pressure' - agree or disagree.
SALLY: Personally I think I've seen people Medivac'd out of Breana's boats and I am not sure her face changed at all. So I would say, Breana, you got this 'in a crisis'. Stone cold Steve Austin has nothing on you!
ANNE: You are so right about that, Sally. I've seen Breana under pressure and you just, you would not understand or know probably what's going on under the surface, but she projects a lot of calm, which is a great asset, I think. I kind of admire that about her a lot.
BREANA: Thank you, guys. Yeah, like I shared on a previous episode - that it really was rowing situations that enabled me to be able to answer this question, because you don't really know in those scenarios until ... you don't know how you're going to respond until you're in them. So I was able to answer that one with more confidence thanks to coxing. Another item on there says: 'In your opinion, it is sometimes okay to step on others to get ahead in life.'
SALLY: It's kind of funny that should be coming up because I am not really glued with linear rules, but I'm a big believer that the end never justifies the means. So I will bend rules and I will give my crew the maximum benefit possible, but there's a point when my reaching to obtain benefit for my crew interferes and unjustly affects other people, and I respect the sport and I respect training far too much to ever, ever accept cheating to get a medal. If nobody's gonna take the medal, it's mine - but you know, I'm not gonna Loki somebody out of a medal.
BREANA: Another question we have is: 'You often make decisions on a whim.' Getting at the idea of spontaneity in coxswains or in people in general, but in this case we're thinking about how this could apply to coxing.
ANNE: I know when I answered this question how I responded. I think it's going to be really one of those many interesting questions in this test that people will learn more about themselves and then how that answer informs what personality type they have. So, I think people get a lot out of that question.
SALLY: I find it interesting because I am perceived as making very quick and very snap judgments, but the truth of the matter is I have run an algorithm in my head weighing the cost-benefit ratio and the possible outcomes, you know. So it - for me, it's ... I don't make decisions without really pondering through the issue. I just have this little rolodex of anxiety that I sort through prior to making decisions.
ANNE: And I think that's one of the benefits of taking this test - is that yes, Sally - to your point - someone might make a judgment about you not knowing your inner life about the fact that, oh Sally ... seems like she makes decisions on a whim - whereas what you're saying is that there is a lot going on underneath there. And you would answer this question very differently than someone who answered it for you. So yeah, that's a great takeaway.
SALLY: I have not mastered Breana's poker face, though. You can usually see me straining out an algorithm. Breana's - cool as a cucumber.
ANNE: I don't know Sally, you do it so quickly it's, um, you don't realize how quickly it happens. But I understand you, knowing you better now, that there is a lot that goes on at the speed of light. So what other questions - other kinds of questions - might people come across in these tests?
BREANA: Yeah - here's one that really addresses something that could be so relevant for coxing and the question is: 'You tend to focus on present realities rather than future possibilities'.
ANNE: Wow, yeah, that's a lot about decision making and how people approach everything from practices to race situations. I think that's a great question to really flesh out how you approach things, right?
SALLY: The interesting thing for me is - if you are coxing an Empacher or Filippi right - it takes a good 45 seconds to actualize a 15 degree turn, so when I'm coxing and I'm in Head of the Charles (which is all turns), I have to be planning seven minutes out where I need to be what I need to be doing for my next turn. And at the same point, I can't be losing track of the 'now'. So for me, both aspects of my brain are running at the same time.
BREANA: Flashback to my first Head of the Charles where I raced in an Empacher, and it was a bad time. That's a story for a future episode, but I very much agree with you - I like that. This question kind of speaks to where we're going to take the rest of our conversation, which is that a lot of these skills, you do need both aspects actually in order to succeed as a coxswain. And so if you find that some parts come very naturally to you, and other parts don't, it just means that you need to kind of target those areas that maybe are a little weaker and nurture them in order to be the most well-rounded, most successful coxswain that you can possibly be. And so what this test is going to show you - is where your strengths and your your tendencies naturally lie, and that'll give you a clue as to where to kind of devote your efforts in areas - that if you strengthen those -
could really strengthen you as a coxswain. In addition to providing that link to the 16 personalities website, and you can read a lot there about their approach to designing this test, I'm going to provide to you guys (in our show notes which you'll find at coxpod.com003), I'll provide some links to other resources out there... other podcast episodes, some scientific articles that you can read to kind of inform yourself more about the science of personality tests if you're interested. This is something that I think about a fair bit. I've always been personally interested in it, but also by vocation. I am a psychology professor, so this is a domain that I feel qualified to talk about in some sense. And so I'll just give you a little bit of background. One of the cool things about this 16 personalities site - which we're not affiliated with in any way - but again, it's just a nice place where you can go and get a free assessment of your personality. While they use the language of a really commonly known assessment - the Myers-Briggs type indicator, or the MBTI as people refer to it - they actually base their assessment off of the 'big five'. They're called the big five personality traits but another term for that in the world is the 'five factor model'. And so this is actually one of the best supported scientific models of personality and kind of characterizations of personality types. So the Myers-Briggs has been criticized because it places people into binary categories and so you are either an 'I' or an 'E' - you're an introvert or an extrovert. And we'll talk about all of these different categories. And we've shared where we lie on that - and due to that anyone who's kind of teetering right on the edge of a particular type could, you know, depending on just changing their response to a single item on the test -
they could land in a totally different category in terms of getting a different set of letters as their personality type that comes out of that test. And so that gives sometimes some questions as to what we call in psychology the 'test- retest reliability' of this test where you might take it once, take it a second time ... give slightly different answers ... and get a different personality type. So in my case, I fall pretty far into the particular side of the dimension that my letters are attached to in a lot of cases, and so I've always found that this personality description really resonates with me. But if you find yourself more towards the middle, that just could mean that you are more balanced in terms of these traits.
ANNE: Breana, can I interrupt you? Yeah because I have a question about that. So what are you going to recommend for those of us who take this test? Because I took the test and I was like, should I take this over and over and over again and average out my results or what? Because I just wasn't sure. So as a scientist, what's your recommendation?
BREANA: I think the best thing to do is just kind of answer the items honestly and then use what you're going to get out of this test which is really nice - they've kind of tried to combat that original criticism of being put into a binary category - by giving you a percentage output of how far you tip to that particular side of the scale. So my results, for instance, come out as 94 introverted so there's really no question there, but if you find yourself more towards the middle, for instance, my second letter which we'll talk about - I'm only 51 percent - you know, on a range from zero to a hundred - so I've just barely crossed over the threshold, which means I am a lot more likely to kind of have the tendencies of both possible aspects. So the nice thing about the big five personality traits is that they really are thought of as a spectrum - from, you know, not adhering to it at all ... to fully falling into that category. And anyone can fall anywhere in between, and so it is kind of nice that we get cool letter designations that some people recognize offhand and they get really attached to their type (as some of us have been throughout our lives ... Sally and I), but that's kind of the best way to interpret it, is to think about where you are on the border of these skills versus the letters perhaps where you are really strong.
ANNE: Okay. And then you could take it again, you know, if there's no harm taking it again.
BREANA: Oh yeah - no absolutely not - and it's kind of fun to retake it after some time has passed and see if anything has changed, for sure.
SALLY: Unless you are completely wedded to your designation and then it becomes a stress thing.
ANNE: Oh dear, we don't want some more stress. No. Cool, thanks.
BREANA: Yeah absolutely - great question. The last kind of thing I'll mention (just quickly) is again the output we've been talking about - letters. And you know, if you've never taken this before if you haven't had a chance to look at the site yet, what exactly does this mean? So what the test will spit out as you're answering these questions, like the examples that we gave, is a five letter designation that represents your personality type. And so for each of those five potential slots, there are two options of the type of letter that you could get. So the first one, you're either going to get an 'I' to reflect that you are more introverted, or an 'E' to reflect that you're more extroverted. And at this point, that's a pretty culturally well understood dimension, especially in coxing, I would venture to say. And then the second letter you're going to get is either going to be an 'S' or an 'N' to reflect your openness to experience is the category of the big five that is attached to this. And that most often is interpreted as whether you are a very detail-oriented person - in terms of sensing versus intuition - is what these stand for, or whether you are kind of more of a big picture person. So we can see both of those being relevant in coxing as well - you've got to address that sloppy blade work that's going on right now, but you also have to keep your eye on the turn that is 10 minutes in front of you in the race like Sally said. And then the next dimension kind of is - it taps on to the idea of agreeableness in the big five. And they, you know, for better or for worse, again that you can read on the 16 personality site about how they chose to make these mappings onto the language of prior tests. And the 'T' versus 'F' dimension is about thinking or feeling. And the simplest way of referring to that is just whether you're kind of ruled by your head or ruled by your heart. And among our group, we have some differences in that that play out in coxing scenarios in different ways. So some things are really challenging to deal with as a coxswain for me (who is a 'T') that are not as hard for Anne (who is an 'F'), so that dimension is there. And then, second to last, we have the 'J' versus 'P' letter. So you're gonna get one of those two which this test maps on to the idea of conscientiousness that's again, a kind of culturally understood word. And oftentimes it's interpreted as a 'J' as someone who is very organized and plans ahead and a 'P' is someone who's a little more spontaneous, for instance. And we can all appreciate that you need both a ton of planning but also a lot of flexibility and ability to be spontaneous as in the coxswain's seat to really be competitive. And the final letter is added by this test, so it's not present in the original Myers-Briggs, but because they needed to capture all five personality traits, they added one that reflects the category of neuroticism which kind of refers to how often you are preoccupied by what other people think about you - which we saw some of those questions about reflecting on your past a lot - and that gives you either an 'A' or a 'T' based on where you fall on that dimension. So again, I highly recommend that you check out the site. It's just fun to do and will teach you about yourself, and again we would love for you to share with us what you got. So now it's time to reveal our results. And I personally have always been - since I first took Myers-Briggs when I was 10 years old: an ISTJ. And I get the letter 'T' attached in the 16 personalities, so my full type is an ISTJT, which is described as a logistician - is their term for that.
ANNE: Oh gosh, that so fits you, Breana.
BREANA: Yeah, like Sally I was a little scared of every time I retake this, I'm always paranoid that I'm going to suddenly answer something differently and get a different type because this has been so core to my identity for so many years. But luckily this time, it panned out as well so I get to keep that identity.
ANNE: So what is a description - how would you describe your letter configuration - what is it? What does it boil down to in real life if people tried to get to know you?
BREANA: Yeah, so I'll read something that we pulled from the web here. An ISTJ is serious and quiet, interested in security and peaceful living, extremely thorough, responsible and dependable, well-developed powers of concentration.
ANNE: Oh gosh - you have that in spades, yes.
BREANA: ...usually interested in supporting and promoting traditions and establishments, well organized and hardworking - they work steadily towards identified goals, they can usually accomplish any task once they have set their mind to it.
SALLY: That definitely sounds like someone's describing you, Breana.
ANNE: I agree.
BREANA: How about you Sally - give us the big reveal.
SALLY: Um, so when I'm wrangling, I tend to adopt a persona and most people think I am this extroverted, touchy feely person and I am not. I am an INTJ, which basically I believe is 'the architect'. I am an introverted, independent person. I have a high probability of thinking and reasoning and turning ideas and long-term visions and making them manifest themselves. Some people say I'm stubborn. I prefer to think I am patient, but that's definitely, that's who I am. I am definitely a INTJ long-range thinker.
ANNE: That really rings true to my experience with you, Sally. I know I've said this to you before, but I'm going to share with our audiences that when I want to think of a few words to describe you, Sally, I like to think of: this is somebody who really enjoys something as crazy and difficult as 3d chess. And the description of your personality type seems true to that, right?
SALLY: I actually own a 3d chess board and if anybody's interested in playing ...
ANNE: You do?
SALLY: Yeah, I'm all about it - both Star Trek and traditional.
BREANA: Trekkies - unite!
ANNE: I did not know that till this very moment.
SALLY: But I love - I love the game of it and that's one of the things that draws me to coxing is - it's a real time blitz chess match and I have to bring all sorts of gambits and games and tricks that I need - with rapid recall. So I truly enjoy that. What about you, Anne?
ANNE: Well, I fall again into the introverted category. So my letters are INFJ, and I'm also a 'T' at the end. So again, I'm introverted but I end up being the only one in this group (I think) that has the F' for feeling. And I'm gonna read the name that the website's given to me - and this is my first time ever doing this. They call me 'the advocate', which I actually kind of agree with. And the description there is that it's quietly forceful, original, and sensitive. I tend to stick to things until they are done (true enough), I'm intuitive about people and concerned for their feelings. And I have a well-developed value system and they say that such people strictly adhere to that value system - I would say, in my case, to a fault. The description reads more that we're well respected for the perseverance in doing the right thing and they are likely to be individualistic rather than leading or following. I don't know - do you guys think that rings true for me?
SALLY: Very much so. It's frightening, actually.
ANNE: Well, that's all well and good that we've given you our letters and we've kind of shared a little bit about what our personalities are described as with regards to the website, but let's talk about some examples about understanding how this might play out in our coxing lives. So Sally, can you give us an example of how this might play out?
SALLY: Alright, so nowhere in my personality type does it say I'm exceptionally erudite and quote literature, but brace yourselves - here I go: Sun Tzu (who is a Chinese philosopher) said that if you know your enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the outcome of 100 battles. And the real stressing for me about this Myers-Briggs is understanding who you are, and then understanding how you are heard. And for me, I think it was really interesting and really illuminating to find out that when I express myself - which is just a natural means of curiosity and a genuine interest in something - I don't always come off so well. In fact, I believe - arrogant ... and I don't want to demonetize ourselves, but 'arrogant fool' has been bantered about a bit. And hearing people talk to me in such a way, or or thinking that I'm being cocky and arrogant when I am just trying to understand a situation was really fascinating. So I've learned to modulate both my tone and my vocabulary and not always use the philosopher literature quotes ... they still creep in there but …
BREANA: How did you come to learn how you came off to other people? What kind of made you aware of that?
SALLY: Again, lots and lots of negative reinforcement in my life. But one of the things that I struggle with is: Breana - a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
BREANA: Wrong franchise.
SALLY: Yeah - oh sorry - I was your coach and it was, it came down to Head of the Charles decision, and it was between you and another coxswain. And I felt that you were the more skilled coxswain, you were the better choice for the 'A' boat. The powers that be - the management committee - felt that the other coxswain should have it not based on her merit but based on various and assorted other emotional decisions. And I knew, Breana, that you would be exceptional in whatever boat and whatever seat I put you in. I just wanted the best for you because I thought you were the best the team had to offer. And coming up with things like that, where in order to play the game, my philosophy - my rubric - didn't apply because the team's mentality was so different than mine. And trying to understand that it wasn't personal it was just a different approach to the same information. That are examples of how I learned this.
BREANA: That is a really critical point to make, which is - that having an understanding of your own personality and also those around you - your coaches and your teammates - that can really help you understand those interactions that may be frustrating where you maybe don't understand someone's reasoning, and it turns out that their value system and, kind of, what they prioritize and what they are naturally inclined to do, is different from yours and that can .. it doesn't make things staying any less when you don't make the boat, but it can help illuminate some of those decisions. Sometimes I think that's another reason to motivate why people should care about this. SALLY: I'm sure there's fodder for this for many multiple episodes to come, and both giving and receiving feedback, but understanding how I communicate and understanding how Anne communicates - it's not wrong. It's just different. So if I understand Anne's feeling tendency versus my thinking tendency and we're juxtaposed ... it's a natural breeding ground for conflict. But understanding where she's coming from and how she's framing the argument, I think, mediates a lot of potential problems down the line.
ANNE: I would agree with that, Sally. And not only just respecting the differences, but understanding our own personality types and then what the sort of the opposites of those are, can also give us that chance to learn more about those aspects that don't come naturally to ourselves. And we can become stronger and better coxswains, and more well-rounded, when we consciously make an effort to build up those skills that again, don't come necessarily naturally to me. You know, the feeling thing you're improving, and hopefully the thinking thing. I'm improving in that area in part from interacting with you so much and respecting that difference.
SALLY: So Breana's strengths are, you know, that she's honest and direct - sometimes she's a little too honest - but I appreciate that she's responsible, she's calm, she's practical. All these wonderful things that you want in the coxswain, but some of the weaknesses associated to this personality type is that you're by the book, and the rules are the rules. How are we still friends, Breana? But that, you know, that you're exceptionally judgmental - like when you are coxing how do you work with these negative connotations of your personality type? How do you work past them?
BREANA: Yeah, there are some times when this can come in to play and a person with my personality type may need to bite their tongue in the boat a little bit and for the good of the team culture, you know, some of the scenarios where this has come up maybe is a team you've coxed ... a boat ... and they've finished the race in dead last and you knew going in that there wasn't a chance to begin with and you were happy to do it. But you just had a realistic assessment maybe more so than they did and then at the end of the race they get off the water and they ask you like, "So how do you think that went ... like, I feel like we did pretty well, right?". And you know, sometimes your instinct is to be like: are you ... did we have the same race? But that, you know, that isn't the right response in that moment. Or maybe you know, a coach coming up to you and and being like, "So, how did that piece feel and, you know, what do you think we could do better"? And, you know, it's just there was no hope for the set at all that practice (no matter what you said) and that is just not the right response in the moment. So sometimes I've had to kind of think about different ways of still positively managing, even if I feel like I have a different expectation or perception of reality ... ... kind of managing the vibe in the boat, if you will. Uh, so you can't be honest and direct at all times, but I think there are times when rowers do kind of appreciate that aspect that I bring. And we already kind of talked about being calm and that is something that I'm grateful to have been able to leverage in a positive way (unbeknownst to me) until I encountered the circumstances. And yeah, kind of being responsible is critical in the coxing world as well, so if that's something that doesn't come naturally to your type - like having it all together with having your equipment ready, and having that race plan - then that's an area that can be addressed.
SALLY: So interestingly enough, Breana, there was this one time Breana coxed for a master's team and, you know, she showed up and you know -being Breana - she took out her notebook and took notes and asked them questions (and blah, blah, blah) just impressed them. And then a couple weeks later, I had the privilege to cox the same masters team. And they look at me, and they look around, they go, "You know, Sally, Breana brought a notebook." So then I, like, spend, like, trying to find a napkin and a pen to (you know) live up to Breana's standards. But it was a good lesson in setting expectations. It was definitely a skill set. I wouldn't have thought to bring a notebook. So I now know - bring a notebook. Don't be outshone by Breana.
BREANA: Well, Sally, your type does have a lot of its own strengths. Among those are that you have a quick, imaginative and strategic mind, as the site calls it. You have high self-confidence - or at least, you are able to put out there the impression that you have it. The 'T' letter maybe indicates that's not true inside all the time. You are independent and decisive and a jack of all trades. And if you have ever met Sally, that is really going to resonate. If you find her at a regatta, in any given second she might be running around trying to find the right type of nut to fix a rigger on a boat brand that no one has ever heard of (and doesn't exist anymore). She might be eloquently quoting Shakespeare as she crosses the line, or she might be finagling five or six different teams to figure out how she's going to get 25 different boats on a trailer (that only has 16 spots) across the entire country in the next two days. So that's Sally - just rocking the INTJ.
ANNE: That's absolutely true. And all the time, she has to change her uniform and so she could be doing all those things while she's in the middle of putting on the correct uniform for the next race - and back and forth. Sally, it's quite something to watch you in action, and jack of all trades, I think, and master of many. I'm gonna add that - not just jack of all trades, but master of many!
SALLY: A lot of smoke and mirrors y'all, a lot of smoke and mirrors.
BREANA: That's your type talking.
ANNE: It's working for you and your crews, right?
SALLY: I hope so.
ANNE: Oh my gosh. Sally, though, sometimes you know, we all have weaknesses - even you maybe. And so according to the personality types, they're saying that sometimes you can be loathe to work in highly structured environments. So what do you think about that? And then I have one follow-up after that.
SALLY: I think anyone who has met me knows that that is a painfully obvious statement. If I don't understand a rule, I am not terribly willing to follow it. I will (again) ... safety -
please, for those who are just hearing me for the first time or just meet me occasionally - please know that safety of my crew and safety of the equipment is always my first priority ... and then comes fairness and then comes fun. So well, I do make these flippant decisions and I take liberal use of rules ... like the speed limit is a suggestion. I really do believe I try to respect the fact that there are some things in the interest of fairness that I won't do no matter, like again, the end doesn't justify the means. But yeah, I do have a tough time ... well, we have to do this: we have to wear blue shirts on Tuesday - why? You give me a reason why maybe I'll do it but I'm not just going to do it because you tell me to do it. And I'll never wear a bow like ... bows in the hair for freshman girls ... why why? That doesn't make sense to me.
ANNE: Well, another area that might be hard for you is things like those, those team rituals, right? So how do you react to them and then how have you learned to react to them differently over time?
SALLY: So, I'm a history geek on top of everything else, so I do appreciate a certain amount of ritual and tradition for history's sake. But again, there are some things, some histories that aren't shouldn't be repeated. And I like a tradition that empowers everybody and feels good and unifies us to a common cause. If it's a tradition that we're just doing to do and it's just part of the the show, I am less likely to do it but I do appreciate that there are some personality types and there are some people who really, really need the, you know, the hug it out ... and, you know, fist pump for the gold or or whatever. I am not a fist pump for gold but if you need me to, I will. Still not be really going to be big on the bows. So let's not do bows.
BREANA: That's something important for coxswains to reflect on as well. If you're identifying with what Sally's been saying here. Since you are often in the place of being a participant in those sort of team rituals, if you don't personally buy into them, it could be worthwhile to do so in the moment for the purposes of kind of bonding with your team. And those are people that, you know, the day after that silly team dinner with the fist pumping and the bows ...you guys all have to get in the boat together and they have to trust you when you call that final 10, you know, and as you approach the line. And so that's something again that I hope coxswains are kind of thinking about as we
talked during this episode.
ANNE: I completely agree with you, Breana - and this is the part where we can say ... let's acknowledge (and you know in this case we're talking about these personality traits), let's acknowledge the ones that seem to come to us naturally - the areas we live in or would prefer to live in moment after moment. However, in order to be effective coxswains and to grow as people we need to consider the bigger picture and begin to embrace some of those personality qualities that might be foreign or even, you know, kind of grating to us. But over time, they have a bigger value and we can either adopt them, you know, just by putting them on for a while - or we can actually (over time) we might end up enjoying some of them and they might begin to become more natural so that we're better, well-rounded coxswains. But sometimes there are painful lessons that we have to have in order to move us from point 'A' to point 'B' right?
SALLY: Actually Anne, I always have been very grateful for your consult on some of these issues. I mean, I have found you and and your personality type has you being exceptionally insightful and you have had the ability to alert me to some more subtle emotional and personality problems on a team before they've come to fruition. And things like - 'Yo Sal, we got to fist pump this one'. Again, you know, while I'm being authentic to my true self, I can participate but it doesn't always fit and I'm really grateful when you go, 'Hey Sal, by the way, they need you to do some of this kumbaya stuff'. And I am very grateful that you have led me (very patiently at times and repeatedly most times) to being able to participate in some things for the betterment of the team. I mean what your personality type is is kind of interesting and and like Breana, one of the the characteristics is that you lack an ability to change or adaptability to change which, again, the fact that you and Breana are still talking to me is astounding because, you know, the only thing constant in my head is the fact that I've changed my mind. And I really would be very curious how that and your sensitivity and being such a private person really works for you as a coxswain.
ANNE: Well, I don't think they do work for me very well as a collection, and that's why I really accept the fact that these are weaknesses and areas that I need to grow in. And they are very counter to my natural personality and so I have to consciously accept the fact that you like change and you are very comfortable with it. And I appreciate that what you've done is given me some moments to pause. You don't anymore require me to accept it immediately. You have recognized that I need to pause and keep my mouth shut and say 'absolutely no way'. I will pause and say, Sally's come up with this plan - or another person has come up with another way of approaching it - hey, pause for a moment and really try to say that might work. You know, I sort of ease into it ... say that, that could work ... that might work ... hey, it will work in this situation. So, it is a weakness but I am working on it almost every day and in terms of being perfectionistic is another characteristic that doesn't serve well, because things are never going to be perfect. And I don't ever like to say that it's good enough but I want to say it's as good as I can make it at this particular moment. Again, holding out, holding out the golden goose at the end saying, yes - if I keep working at it day after day, maybe one day it will be perfect. I can't quite give that up yet, but I'm working on it. So I think that you know understanding that there are all of these different situations that our personalities are going to encounter and they will happen ... as coxswains, things are going to be different and make us uncomfortable. Let's just maybe talk about our various personalities and how they would cause us to react in the face of some really common situations. Breana, what about, what about you? Could anything come to mind?
BREANA: Sure does. Yeah, one thing that has just always been really challenging for me is those times when rowers make outward displays of negative emotions in particular. So everyone can commiserate at the end of a race when we're whooping together because we pulled it off and we got that medal, but I'm talking about (kind of) those more subtle times ... like you're coxing an 8 and then ... this has happened to me ... you look up and stroke seat just has tears streaming down their face ... and they're still rowing ... and they're (you know)... everything seems normal from the look of their stroke, and so you now are in this situation, I'm in this very intimate position where only I can see what this rower is experiencing. And I'm always stuck. Like, do I respond in (you know) my 'T' side (if we're going to continue this theme of personality types) really is unsure what to do. Do I comfort them? And I usually end up in the situation of just, kind of, quietly acknowledging, but also not really responding in any way. And it has stymied me every time that it happens.
SALLY: And it happens a lot more than people think.
ANNE: Yes it does, right?
SALLY: It happens a lot more than people think - and for various reasons and I appreciate it, but I, like Breana, I'm like, 'Oh my god, they're leaking. Why are they leaking? They're leaking for a reason - something's wrong - something's wrong -we should fix this - we need ... what ... they're leaking ... why are they leaking'?
ANNE: So you reflect your personality type so much that I'm the only 'F' in this group, right?
ANNE: The things that are going to come so easily for the two of you, this is like, oh okay - no problem. I can handle this most of the time and the first thing, you know, that I'm gonna make a suggestion here. The first thing is that you, most of the time, you know your crews. You know those individuals so for example, if you ever see me crying, the best response to you seeing me crying is to turn the other way and pretend you never saw it happen, because it's hugely embarrassing to me but there are other people that you know that they tend to be more emotionally, you know, they have emotional displays. So in those cases, all you need to do - all you need to do is just cover your mic for a second, and just look up at the person or whatever, and say, "I've got you. I'll follow up with you later". And then put your mic back on and carry on.
SALLY: Y'all - for the record - if you see me crying ... nine-one-one, okay?
SALLY: It has gone very wrong very quickly. Nine-one-one.
ANNE: We promise. So what other circumstances or situations that happen a lot of the time? Can you give us an example perhaps, and then like, how you would handle it based on your personality type?
SALLY: So one of the things I do (and it's interesting because I get mistaken for an 'F' all the time and the truth of the matter is I am not an 'F'), I am a well-schooled person, so when we have the boat meeting, I (and especially with a pickup crew crew that I don't know that very well) I'm watching them ... I'm listening to them ... and it's to me, it's much more than "tell me what to say, tell me the starting sequence, tell me ...". I'm watching them. Who's nervous? Who's confident? Who's tired? Who's aggravated? And to me, I mean again, it's an algorithm. I am looking at how they are carrying themselves and that tells me how I need to cox them later in the race. I wish I could say it was this incredible outpouring of empathy and emotion and stuff, but again, it's like, "Oh my god she's leaking ... what are we gonna do, Breana? Breana, Breana - she's leaking! Help"!
ANNE: Well, so on the surface, you would seem like you are an 'F' and you might come across to other people as an 'F', but you accomplish that outward appearance through your analytical methods.
SALLY: And please don't, again, for people who don't know me, I am not sitting there like a robot judging you - that's Breana. I am evaluating. I just am not really good with emotions, so I have a very learned and practiced way of dealing with it. I'm not negating your emotions. I'm not making fun of your emotions.
ANNE: No. I don't, I don't mean that. And by the way, we're all 'Js' so we all have that little judgmental thing going on, truth be told.
SALLY: So what about you guys? Like - how about when you feel there is a last minute change? How do you guys handle it since change is not anything that y'all are very comfortable with? I read about that. How do you handle a last minute lineup change or regatta change or ...?
BREANA: Yeah, that used to be one that would absolutely drive me up the wall. And I think if there are any listeners who kind of identified with the earlier conversation about that, then this could be you, too. And your test results might reveal that. And yeah, the idea of a lineup getting changed at the race course, or something about the plan being different, the boat brand that you're gonna use (suddenly your coach decides that they're renting a different one) - all of those things were really challenging for me to confront because I like to plan and kind of see all those details and have just a vision for how everything is going to go and have accounted for all of those possibilities ... and then something new gets thrown into the works and I have just lost. And I think what really helped me to get over that was increasing the breadth of experiences that I had as a coxswain. So those scenarios were very frustrating initially, and now I'm able to roll with the punches a little more - even if it's uncomfortable and even if I'll challenge sometimes, because I have just had so many races that are all just full of changes at the last minute. I hop in the boat on the dock and I have to ask them when the race time is, and who they are, because it's just ... that boat needed a coxswain in that moment. And I'm able to serve them without kind of, you know, overshadowing the whole thing with my frustration about the changes. So really, it was just being thrown into all of these circumstances which any coxswain listening can have those experiences just being at regattas. And our skills are really in demand and so you have the opportunity to be in boats outside of your home team, and really seek those out. They can kind of give you (especially if this is an issue for you what I'm talking about here) they can give you more adaptability in different scenarios.
SALLY: Anne, what would you say? Again because you are sensitive, that feeling emotion (I don't want to say crap), but you know ... that feeling something .. yeah I'm trying ... I'm really trying here... okay I'm trying this ... so how would you handle it if you feel that you're being ignored by a rower?
ANNE: Well, you're touching on a very tender spot for me, and by this I don't mean somebody that's trying to make a change and can't make a change for whatever reason or they just haven't reached that change yet. I have been in circumstances where people have deliberately ignored what I'm asking them to do and it's an area for additional growth on my part. But my first reaction is intense anger. I feel very disrespected and invisible and I don't like that feeling at all. So I'd love to take some guidance from either one of you about how to better respond to that.
SALLY: See, as a tactician, I'm always thinking there's another gambit. If it is truly that they don't value what you say it's, for me, it'd be reframing the argument to making sure I am saying something that they deem a value, or I would be trying to evaluate ... they don't hear me when I am talking emotions. Would they hear me if I talk linear facts? So I see it as a game of how am I communicating and how are they choosing to hear? And sometimes there are people who choose not to hear you like, you know, no matter how wise and incredibly pithy the words that come. It's, you know, I've got 8 and a half minutes to try and figure out how to communicate to you. And the fact that I walk in a boat and you don't see me as much initially is okay by me. I'm hoping that by the end of the piece - by the end of the practice - you see me as bringing value add.
ANNE: Right. Well, I appreciate that and I'm going to give that a lot of thought - thank you. Are there situations for you, Breana, that are easy because of your personality type or some that are challenging? You know, another one that is challenging for you based on your type?
BREANA: Oh that's a great question. I have found really since I started that the parts of coxing that came most naturally to me were technique and really dealing with that puzzle of like - okay, I have eight blades in front of me and the blade's movement is reflecting the movement of a body which is controlled by the mind of a person. And there's eight individuals in there and just cleaning up each little tiny thing like this person's rolling up late ... okay, we fixed that ... now that's caused us to rush ... let's fix that. And I really enjoyed that part but again, it's where the kind of emotions come in where I'm challenged, so I might spend an entire practice (for instance), and even I'm getting frustrated internally trying to fix the set in the boat. Like, I can tell that it's off. I know the rowers can tell that it's off and I'm spending the whole time trying every call in my repertoire ... like, it wasn't that ... okay, I told him to sit up ... okay, wasn't that ... we've worked on handle heights for a minute - wasn't that. And that circumstance is challenging but a challenge that I enjoy and then what really compounds it for me is when there's a rower from the back of the boat in the middle of a piece who just pipes up out of nowhere, "Can we please fix the set". And I just ...
SALLY: Thank you. We had no idea that was happening, right? Brilliant. Insightful, Thank you so very much for your input.
ANNE: But Sally, would you say that out loud?
SALLY: Um, occasionally, yes. Again, a personality type.
BREANA: So that's the difference between us. Yeah. I, in those situations, I'm often just silent. Like, I don't react but I worry, and when I don't, I'm losing control a little bit you know. And some coxswains I know could shut that down right away and it would fit their style to just be like - "Shut up. I'm in charge". But that really isn't how I roll. And so
again, another situation that really gets me every time - and I've not mastered how to fix it.
SALLY: You know, interestingly enough you know, 'shut up' and just telling them to silence isn't how I'd handle it either. I'd be the one defusing it.Ii would be making a joke out of it. I would be quoting Monty Python or something ... just because that is, you know, that is a conflict ... that is a problem ... that is a sticking point. The logician in me is trying to make it work and to make it work, you kind of have to hear them. You acknowledge them, but if I reference the black knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it kind of diffuses the situation a little bit. I think there's a time and a place for those, you know, explicitives, but I tend not to gravitate toward them. But I would, I would be one like - "Jolly good idea. Thank you so very much - had no idea. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a set issue. Brilliant, three seat. Brilliant ... so grateful. Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, let's try to focus on set for three seat now, shall we?" And, um, three seat might not talk to me after practice, but you know ... worth it. ANNE: That's awesome Sally.
SALLY: Yeah, no.
ANNE: I know it's better than some of the things I would come up with.
SALLY: There's a time and a place and again, I wish I could say that comes naturally. That is a learned skill. I evaluate the tension in the boat. I evaluate three seat's anger. I evaluate who's it coming from - why are they saying it? Are they saying it because the boat's really down or are they saying it because they're getting stuck in the water and they perceive the boat is down to their side? And all these little algorithms are running in my head and my mission is to get the boat back safely, and try to actualize the race plan or the workout or whatever. So how do I manipulate the situation that the common end is actualized?
BREANA: So given that, Sally, tell us how much you love situations that you couldn't have planned for. Like, we all know you've relished the experience of having a seaplane come down in the middle of your race out west.
SALLY: That was, yeah, that was taking coxing to like ... three dimensions! For all of y'all, that cox in Seattle or Washington state (God bless you guys because that is pretty crazy). Yeah, that we were doing Tail of the Lake and a seaplane comes whizzing down as I'm in the middle of the racing queue. And on the east coast, seaplanes are not that common and you know ... it gets close to you ... it kicks up a wake while it's still in the air. It was one of those things I had not anticipated during the race plan. I was able to adapt (possibly with slightly more colorful language than I would have appreciated) ... not that I'm rethinking my behavior in that day at all ...
BREANA: Not a turbulent personality type - not even a little.
SALLY: It's like all of a sudden this wake comes. I mean, I have been in situations where literally a submarine goes by and this giant wake, that if it was a boat, I can see the wake - that's coming from a boat because I can see the boat. But the wake from a submarine caught me a little off guard because you can't see it coming. You ... I may have thought I was hallucinating a little bit, but ...
ANNE: I want to hear from our audience how many other coxswains have ever been waked by a submarine and we will give you a 'shout out' if it's for real, right?
SALLY: ... anybody who coxes out at Fort Townsend and the San Juans and the upper peninsula out there.
ANNE: Come and tell us! We want to hear more about it, but that, that's awesome Sally.
SALLY: Did not anticipate that one.
BREANA: I think we've covered a lot of great scenarios here - some more relatable than others maybe. And I know you're probably listening and thinking ... you know, maybe there are things that are resonating that are really challenging for you or maybe you have the perfect answer to when a rower cries in the boat ... in which case please, please, please, please, please email me! So we would just love to hear ... you know ...
continue the conversation please on our on our Slack channel and elsewhere on the internet where you can find us. And just let us know what is resonating from this episode and that's another chance for us to all learn from each other. So to kind of bring it back to our purpose for today and why we're making an episode like this - an uncommonly addressed coxing topic, I would venture to say - what we've been saying is that one of the advantages of knowing about your personality type is that once you have a sense of which things come easily versus what's challenging, you can kind of mitigate those challenges ... which is all in the service again of being the best coxswain that you can possibly be, no matter what boat that you're jumping into in a given time.
ANNE: Exactly, Breana. It's that we've acknowledged the fact that there's this stereotype out there, and we've shared about the fact that one of the things the three of us have in common is that we're all introverts. And therefore some people might say being an introvert is a real disadvantage. Well, what we've talked about is that there are ways of building additional skills and also celebrating the skills that come naturally to us, and as introverts, we've had a lot of conversations among the three of us and it's something that (because we are so fascinated by this topic), we do hope to explore it in a future episode. So stay tuned for that one.
BREANA: Absolutely. And for today we are nearing the end of this particular episode, and as we hope to do on many of our future episodes, we don't want to close before kind of touching on how what we've shared today can impact the other constituents and the rowing community. And so we have a couple of takeaways for coaches and for rowers. And then we'll bring it back home for our coxswain listeners before we close.
SALLY: I had the very great privilege of (I'll pretend to say) coaching both of you, but really it was working with you ... and one of the hardest things for me as a coxswain to do was hear how you would say something, Anne … or hear how you would phrase something, Breana ... and recognize just because it wasn't what I would say didn't make it wrong - it was just different. It was a different flavor - a different characteristic. And acknowledging there are things that I think I do that motivate my crew (I can quote Caesar crossing the Rubicon or Richard III speech or something like that) ... and Breana literally just rolled her eyes - literally guys - you can't see this, but Breana rolled her eyes. And trying to make Breana do this stuff is just wrong. It is, well it would be funny, but it would be really wrong. And acknowledging that Breana's gonna have a completely different way of phrasing things that I really need to respect, and acknowledging just because it's different doesn't make it wrong It's just different. The whole Myers-Briggs thing is based on Jungian philosophy and an archetype about who people are, and the truth is: we're all different people with tremendous amounts of strengths and weaknesses and whatever, and all that matters is when we get the boat is that we celebrate each other to make our weaknesses better so that we become greater than the sum of our parts. And understanding who we are and understanding what we are, really goes a long way into helping that happen. I can think of myself as this kind, compassionate person but in reality, I come across as this really unpleasant, caustic word that would get us unmonetized ... and knowing that that's my natural personality, I can bring other, better parts of my personality to light to help push the boat forward ... to help push the practice forward. And I think understanding and acknowledging that is really important for coaches who work with coxswains ... for working with the team ... for working with a greater dynamic.
BREANA: I guess to bring it back to probably our main audience of coxswains, it's also worthwhile to take what Sally just said and recognize that what works for one coxswain, is not necessarily going to work for you, and it's not something that you have to copy exactly. So if you listen to a recording of Sally and hear her quoting all kinds of ancient literature, that isn't necessarily going to be the strategy (if you just plug that into your own coxing), it doesn't mean that it's going to work. So again, part of the point of this is to celebrate what you naturally bring to the boat and the strengths that accompany that. And it frees us up to be able to kind of learn from each other, and take what works and leave the parts that don't work, and let them shine for that particular coxswain. And so there's no need to, you know, reproduce exactly what you've heard on a recording. And that's something that we hope this environment (where we're encouraging coxswains to share maybe a little more than they are raised to do in their home environments), we're hopeful that doing that rather than kind of competing against each other, will make every race that happens out there just be a better experience for us and for rowers.
SALLY: Whatever you do. don't quote Jane Austen - no good can come from that.
ANNE: I know I'm rolling my eyes now, Sally.
SALLY: How to try to get every one of you.
ANNE: How about uh, how about tips for rowers?
BREANA: Yeah, I would say to them very similarly ... along the lines of what we've been talking about so far. Rowers, I think, can sometimes fall into a fallacy - especially if they've been on an established team and a new coxswain joins them. They can hold that coxswain to the same stylistic standard as their previous coxswain who, you know, was on the team for a long time and that can be a mistake. Again, we're really highlighting that two people who are both super successful, can sound very different in the boat, and both of those approaches can lead to a lot of success. So I would say if someone new joins your team, resist the temptation to kind of mold them into the exact style of your favorite coxswain. Absolutely share with them what you like and don't like to hear from a coxswain, but be open to the fact that they maybe are going to bring new things and new approaches and new quotes and other expressions and parts of their their job as the coxswain that may really work well for your team that you hadn't yet considered. So that's the advice that I would give to rowers.
ANNE: I really like the way you phrased that, Breana. And I'm going to work on bringing us towards the end of this episode. And one of the things that we had talked about - the three of us - and what we'd like to offer in these episodes (every time) is some kind of 'quick pick'. And we've dealt with some heavy topics ... some light topics in here, but I want to toss out a quick pick that is, to me, hilarious. And I think the three of us watched parts of it together and we were enjoying ourselves ... and what this is is a quick pick for silent film. If you haven't seen it yet, gonna recommend ... it's called 'The College' and features Buster Keaton. It's a black and white silent film, and there's a specific rowing section in there where he is a coxswain and if you'd like to watch it yourself (if you haven't yet), find the link on our show notes at coxpod.com 003, and let us know your reaction to it. We just throw it out there as sort of a fun light-hearted item for your consideration.
BREANA: It's worth a watch. It's incredible all right.
SALLY: So in closing, one of the shared letters in all of our personality types was 'I' for introvert. Despite the fact that three of us share this other uncommon personality type for coxswains, we do still want to emphasize the fact that it's not the only personality type for coxswains - and anybody who works hard can do an amazing job in that seat! In the meantime, we invite you to engage with us on social media and on Slack where your questions might get featured in a future episode. And if you have any, any advice on that crying rower thing, please (yeah, please, we need help). We would also love for you to consider supporting us on Patreon if that's of interest to you, for our patrons, we'll be offering early access to upcoming episodes and the chance to have input on what we talk about on future episodes. Breana is promising a blooper reel. I'm not sure I gave consent to that...
ANNE: Nor I, nor I.
BREANA: Or Sally's gonna do a dramatic reading of some literature. Oh boy, all kinds of things for you on the Patreon.
SALLY: "Once more until the breach, my friends - once more". Anyhow. You know what I think? We should end it there. Until next time, I'm Sally, I'm Breana, and I'm Anne - signing off for now.