My Marriage IQ: Answers to questions you might have!

My Marriage IQ Logo

I’ve been getting some great questions about My Marriage IQ and thought I’d write a quick post to answer them. Take a look if you’re still in the process of deciding whether My Marriage IQ would be a good gift to get your partner for Valentines Day (you have until midnight on Valentines to decide!). If you have more questions, feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!

My Marriage IQ FAQs:

How accurate is this Birkman test? Will it really tell me anything useful about myself or my partner?

You’re right to wonder about this since there are so many random personality quizzes floating around out there. Being told you’re a Golden Retriever or Ariel doesn’t really help you improve your relationship. What you’re looking for in an assessment is validity and reliability.

Validity tests whether an assessment tool measures what it says it measures. The short answer is, Birkman International uses a variety of validity tests and the tool is sound. In 2007, Birkman updated the assessment tool to link it to the Five Factor Model – a set of five broad dimensions of personality that are widely accepted in current psychology.

Reliability refers to the consistency or stability of the assessment tool. When the test is administered it should provide consistent results. Give it to someone today and give it to them again in two weeks and the results should stay the same. This is called test-retest. The Birkman scales have test-retest reliabilities averaging 85% which means they provide a highly accurate picture of behavior. For all of you who more on the science and research end, here is the Technical Brief (pdf).

You’re not a counselor or therapist so how can this help our serious relationship issues?

You’re absolutely right that I’m not a counselor or a therapist. This tool is designed to boost communication and understanding in our relationships. It is not designed to address more serious relationship issues. It can help you communicate more effectively, but I highly recommend that you find a counselor or therapist if you need more help navigating the tough stuff. In fact, take your Birkman reports to the therapist and use them as a jumping off point for discussion. Here are some links for finding therapy:

Does this material contain gender stereotypes that will make us roll our eyes?

I hear you. John and I have read a few books where all the illustrations seem to come straight out of the 1950s. My Marriage IQ is about personalized information identifying interests and behaviors that both males and females exhibit. It’s presented in an objective way with graphs and neutral language. You will not find any cheesy illustrations or gender stereotypes to make you feel annoyed or uncomfortable! I also chose to use the word “partner” rather than “husband”, “wife” or “spouse” because My Marriage IQ is for both engaged and married couples.

Does this come from a particular faith perspective?

None of the material touches directly on faith as not all couples share a common faith so I didn’t want it to be a barrier in the process. I do provide faith-based and non-faith-based resources at the end of the guide for those who would like to explore further marriage materials. I am a Christian and so was the founder of Birkman International so both the guide and the Birkman reports uphold Christian values such as the beauty of being uniquely created, the dignity and value of every human being, and the belief that our differences are essential for contributing to the health of our partnerships and community. Also, the overall project is informed by my positive view of marriage as a life-long commitment that is worth working on and fighting for.

So what happens when I buy it?

You’ll receive and email that will have you download the receipt and instructions as well as the discussion guide. In the instructions, you will get a link for each of you to do the Birkman Method questionnaire and receive your individual reports. The discussion guide also contains a link to the instruction videos that clarify key parts of the Birkman Method reports. My Marriage IQ is entirely self-directed so you set your own pace with your partner and take your time. I’ve recommended a series of six date nights but you can do it in any order and for however long you need to. It’s also reusable. You could do a refresher on your Birkman reports every year on your anniversary. The report results are accurate for life so this information is relevant for the length of your relationship! Using My Marriage IQ in your relationship can give you a life-long reference tool on how best to take care of each other.

Why is there a deadline? Will it not be available after February 14th?

My Marriage IQ will be going offline at midnight on February 14th because of some internal changes to the costs and formatting of the Birkman Method reports for certified Birkman Method consultants. I will hopefully revive My Marriage IQ in a new format later in the year and will have to increase the price. If you’re on the fence, now is a good time to jump because it’s a killer deal and it’s not coming back. The individual Birkman consultations I typically do are $325 and My Marriage IQ pricing will likely approach or surpass that in its next iteration.

More questions? Something I haven’t covered? Leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as possible so you can make your decision before Valentines!

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Birkman Tour Part 5: The Extra Goodies

I’m finally wrapping up this tour with some more details about what you get with the full Birkman report. These are the extra goodies that add so much value to your basic report information. Why? Because it moves from being simply descriptive “You’re like to this” to more prescriptive suggestions, “When this happens, try this.”

Stress Pages

For example, the Stress Pages offer you more insight into your needs and how to build up your ability to flex in situations where your needs aren’t being met. Suggestions for how to manage stress behaviors and flex your usual style when it’s needed are really helpful for those of us who tend to ask, “Yes, but now what? What do I do with this information?” Of course, it’s still up to us to take the suggestions to heart and follow them, but it’s handy to have an action plan handed to you so you at least know what you’re aiming for.

 

Coaching

There’s also a Coaching Report, a Coaching summary and other handy summary pages for those of you who work with a life coach or any other kind of guide on a regular basis. You could take these kind of reports to meetings with your manager or boss to give them a cheat sheet on your usual style and needs and use it as a basis for discussion. They’re also handy if you just need the reminder yourself. Tack them up on your bulletin board as a way to keep integrating the information into your life.

Coaching Summary

Comparative Reports

The other great aspect of doing the full Birkman is that it allows for comparative reports called “Issues to Watch” and “Differences to Watch” with really helpful information for understanding key aspects of your relationship with another person, be it a manager, team member, spouse, sibling or child.

differencestowatch

Group Reports

If a large group takes the Birkman, there are also group graphs that are a great visual aid for people to quickly grasp where different members of the team are coming from.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour through the various Birkman Method reports! Let me know if you have any further questions!

Birkman Tour Part 4: Strengths and Needs Graphs

The Strengths and Needs Graphs are probably my favourite part of the Birkman. On the Lifestyle Grid, you get a diamond for usual style, and a circle and square for needs and stress behaviors. You get some bullet points about each of them but the really in-depth look comes in these graphs. This is where you really drill down into the more complex aspects of behavior and it’s much more personalized than the basic bullet points.

The Strengths and Needs Graphs go through 11 behavioral components with three graphs on each page and an arrow marking your score on each graph.

strengths and needs graphs example

  • The top graph shows you your usual style – aka your strengths! Usual styles are always: Productive, beneficial, and visible. You might consider it your external or public self.
  • The middle graph describes what you need from others and your environment in order to maintain your usual style. Needs are often invisible and not obvious from observing usual behaviors. Some people consider this their internal or private self.
  • The bottom graph describes possible stress behaviors you might exhibit if your needs go unmet. These behaviors may also be visible, but unproductive and potentially damaging. They may not be visible if you have developed strategies for managing these behaviors.

The 11 behavioral components measured are:

  • Esteem – Relating to Individuals
  • Acceptance -Relating to People in Groups
  • Structure – Planning and Organizing
  • Authority – Directing and Controlling
  • Advantage – Your Approach to Incentives
  • Activity – Preferred Pace of Action
  • Challenge – Your View of Yourself
  • Empathy – Emotional Expressiveness
  • Change – Dealing with Change
  • Freedom – Personal Independences
  • Thought – Reflection in Decision Making

The information in these graphs helps people:

  • own their strengths
  • name and understand their needs
  • acknowledge their unproductive stress behaviors

The Birkman Method gives you a neutral platform and a common language around all these behaviors so that discussing them with your spouse or your colleagues at work becomes a little easier and hopefully less tense. It can help couples or work teams appreciate the diversity of usual styles and the strengths that come with those. It helps you give more weight to you needs as something legitimate and hard-wired. And you become more aware of how you can mitigate your stress behaviors.

Some notes:

LOW and HIGH are not good or bad in this report. They are simply opposite ends of a spectrum. It’s not better to have LOW needs or worse to have HIGH needs – they are just describing two very different sets of needs. There is no ideal score for any of these behavioral components.

These behavioral component scores should never be taken as a license to make excuses for your behavior, “See, I’m just hardwired that way.” While our needs are generally “hardwired” we are totally capable of learning to flex our usual styles. We can also learn to manage our stress behaviors. Throughout our lives, there will be times when we have to learn to flex into very different styles that what we’re usually comfortable with, in order to meet other people’s needs.

The Strengths and Needs graphs provide a huge boost in self-awareness and allow you to communicate who you are more effectively.

Some quick details about My Marriage IQ

I missed blogging on Wednesday because I was in the middle of launching My Marriage IQ. Today I wanted to take a momentary break from doing the Birkman Tours to just share a few more details with you.

My Marriage IQ

Birkman Method Logo

 

 

 

If you haven’t had a chance to watch the videos, I had three preview videos explaining more about My Marriage IQ and what the Birkman Method reports contribute to that.

Videos

Giveaway

I also have a giveaway for one free copy of My Marriage IQ and that will end TONIGHT at midnight! I will announce the winner Saturday! Don’t miss out on your chance to win a free copy – enter today and then you’ll know by tomorrow if you won or not!

Other good things to know:

My Marriage IQ is entirely self-directed so you set your own pace with your partner and take your time. I do have instructional videos that clarify key parts of the Birkman Method reports.

This has no cheesy illustrations or gender stereotypes to make you feel annoyed or uncomfortable! This is personalized information presented in an objective way that lets you be you and doesn’t try to fit you into an ideal mode (there is no ideal mode!).

Why is there a deadline for getting My Marriage IQ?

This is my first launch of this product and I want to spend a good amount of time over the fall getting feedback from this first user group on their experience using My Marriage IQ. That’s why My Marriage IQ will not be available after Sunday night at midnight. Make sure you make a decision about investing in your relationship by Sunday evening so you don’t miss out on it!

I’m limiting it to the first 50 couples who buy it so that I can hopefully interact personally with each couple and learn from their input so that I can perfect it for a 2016 relaunch (I’m looking at February so stay tuned!)

Huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and helped with this project. All the positive feedback so far is very encouraging.

Have a great weekend!

UPDATED 9.28.2015: If you’re here hoping to get My Marriage IQ, it will be available again in early 2016. It’s currently going through an inaugural run with the first user group. If you to know when it’s available again, please sign up below and you’ll be the first to hear when My Marriage IQ gets relaunched.

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Birkman Tour Part 3: Career Management Report

Today’s Birkman tour takes us through the Career Management Report. This is a great tool for people who need some more options to explore, such as high school seniors who are debating their next steps or college grads starting careers. It’s also helpful for mid-career people who are wondering about career changes.

The Career Management Report can help you determine if your job satisfaction will be determined more by the actual tasks you get to do or by the environment you are placed in. Some people would be happy anywhere as long as they get to do a specific set of tasks. Other people couldn’t care less what the tasks are as long as the environment suits them.

There are two parts to the Career Management Report: Job Families and Organizational Focus

Job Families

Career Management

I find this one fascinating because it shows you how similar you are to satisfied people within various job categories by comparing your responses on the questionnaire. Birkman uses the Department of Labor’s O*net database to categorize and label Job Families and links to it so that people can explore things like education needed, job growth forecast, salary expectations etc.

Birkman doesn’t include every job family from the Department of Labor though. The ones listed in the Career Management report are limited to the jobs with large enough sample sizes in the Birkman database for accurate comparison. Within each Job Family, job titles are also ranked from most similar to least similar.

A few notes:

Birkman emphasizes that this report should not be used to exclude job options. If you are a strong match to a certain job, it does mean that you could have higher job satisfaction in that role, but it is totally possible to succeed and be successful in jobs that you don’t match very much. High matches mean you have the same types of characteristics as people who are satisfied in that field. However, you could have very different characteristics and still do the job well and enjoy it. You might bring a whole new valuable set of skills to the table. It also means you might likely face some steeper communication challenges with teammates who might assume you’re like them.

Organizational Focus

The Organizational Focus scales are deceptively simple. It’s about the way we view and relate to an organization.Career Management

Long bars mean you identify strongly with that work environment. Short bars means you don’t identify strongly with the set of work tasks or functions in that category.

Career Management

It’s especially important for business leaders to be aware of what aspects of their companies they’re naturally more focused on. The tendency can be to channel most of your energy and resources into that one area, which can be potentially damaging for long term business success. In order to build a strong organization, it’s important for leaders to balance out their leadership team and make sure all aspects of business are given adequate resources.

Again, as with the Job Families, if your green bar is super short, it does not mean you shouldn’t pursue a position in the Sales and Marketing division of a company. It just means you probably will be unique compared to most of their other sales people. That may be very effective for you or it can be a problem. The key is to be aware of this so you can make a better decision about what challenges you want to take on.

That’s it for now! Next part of the tour takes us into the heart of the Birkman: Strengths and Needs. If you have questions or thoughts, I’d love to hear them so feel free to use the comments below!

Birkman Tour Part 2: Areas of Interest

Areas of Interest is probably the most straight-forward report the Birkman provides. Most people have a good idea of what they’re interested in and this report ranks your interest in 10 categories: Artistic, Literary, Musical, Scientific, Mechanical, Outdoor, Clerical (or Administrative), Numerical, Social Service and Persuasive.  You can see the Areas of Interest definitions in the example here:Birkman Areas of Interest

Your scores are based on measuring your interest compared to the level of interest indicated by other respondents in that particular work area. While it doesn’t measure skill, it does show the work you are mostly likely to enjoy.

So, while this seems so basic you might not give it another glance, the thing I love about the Birkman is how it makes the connection between your interests and your well-being. Areas of very high interest should be considered a “need” in  your life. To feel energized and reduce stress in your life, you should have opportunities to be engaged with your highest interests regularly, whether at work or play. If you’re required to spend a lot of time working in an area of intense disinterest, that will increase your stress levels and drain you.

This is a great report for graduating seniors thinking about what classes to pursue in college. It’s great for those starting their careers to keep in mind as they figure out where they can contribute. It’s great for mid-career people as a reminder to consider if they’re tapping into all areas of their interest, if not at work, then through hobbies and volunteer opportunities. It’s great for managers to know these things about their employees as they assign new projects. It’s great for leaders to know these things about their teams because they can address more of a person’s motivational areas.

I love the idea that our areas of interest can be used as a guide to self-care. If your work doesn’t give you outlets for exploring your interests, you should be figuring out a way to incorporate them into your life in other ways. Focusing on activities that are meaningful to you will give you energy and a sense of well-being.

Today, take a guess ranking the above interests for yourself. Are you giving time to your top interests?

Birkman Tour Part 1: The Life Style Grid

The Life Style Grid is considered the heart of the Birkman. It gives you the snapshot or overview of everything else the Birkman will discuss in greater detail in other reports. I love the Life Style Grid because it helps you visualize the information quickly:

Birkman Life Style Grid

 

There’s a lot more to this but when you sum up the four quadrants, The Blue people work with their minds (thinkers), The Yellow people work with rules (counters), The Red people work with their hands (doers) and the Green people work with relationships (talkers). Red people focus on THINGS and their motto is “Just Do It!” Green folks focus on PEOPLE and they “never meet a stranger.” Blue people focus on IDEAS and you could say they “question everything.” Yellow folks focus on systems and their motto would be “there is a place for everything and everything in its place.”

It gets interesting and much more complex than some personality tests when you start figuring out where you land. The Birkman has four symbols to describe the different aspects of your overall style.

  • The Asterisk summarizes WHAT you want to do as indicated by Your Interests. These are the types of activities that will give you the most satisfaction.
  • The Diamond is your HOW – how other people see you acting most of the time. How you behave when everything is basically normal aka Your Usual Style.
  • The Circle shows WHERE you need support from others and from your environment. Birkman calls those things Your Needs. The Square indicates Your Stress Behaviors and goes around the Circle.

Symbols of the Lifestyle Grid Description

The Needs and Stress behavior symbols fall in the same place on the grid so each person ends up with a personal triangle. Your three points could all fall within one quadrant or you could be in three different colors! Every report I have seen has had a unique triangle. The configurations are endless. For example, here’s my triangle. My usual style edges over into the Green Communicator quadrant, but my Interests, Needs and Stress Behaviors are all deeply Blue. What that means is explained in an 8-15 page report with bullet points to describe your behavior and how it compares to the other quadrants. Tash's Life Style Grid

The Life Style Grid report gives you a good start to understanding yourself and others in a quick easy-to-grasp way. The more detailed information comes in further reports, so stay tuned for next time!

 

A Guided Tour of the Birkman Method

The most common response I get when I tell people I’m a Certified Birkman Consultant is a perplexed face, followed by, “A what?!” Maybe it’s just my friend group, but in order to reduce this reaction, I wanted to give you a guided tour of the Birkman Method and the kinds of reports you would get if you took the assessment.

But first, since we were just talking about values last week, I want to talk a little bit about the principles and values that the Birkman is founded on.

a guided tour of the Birkman Method

The Birkman Credo

We believe:

  •  in emphasizing the positive aspects of personality
  • individual differences allow creative options
  • differences relate to personal, social, and occupational behavior
  • individuals can manage and strengthen positive behaviors
  • in providing opportunities for personal, team and organizational growth
  • every organization has its distinctive culture which needs to be acknowledged

People often talk about differences negatively as if we’re normal and others are not. The Birkman Method is founded on the idea that human diversity is healthy and beneficial. There is no one “normal” or “ideal” behavioral style. There are also no “wrong” or “bad” personalities. Instead there are usual productive behaviors and there are unproductive stress behaviors. This means that we don’t have to feel defensive when exploring our differences.

The Birkman is all about combating the assumptions that there’s only one right way to do things or that everyone wants to be treated the way we want to be treated. Instead of operating on assumptions about others, we can learn to appreciate different styles and understand where others are coming from.

Here’s a great video with a little bit of Dr. Birkman’s life story (he was the founder of the Birkman Method). If you start watching at 4:00 minutes, you’ll see his hope for each generation to accept diversity. He developed the Birkman Method to help us do just that.

Pretty inspiring right? Next week in our guided tour of the Birkman Method, we’ll talk about the Lifestyle Grid. It provides a quick snapshot or personal summary of your interests, usual style, needs and stress behaviors so stay tuned!

How to figure out what you really value

core value exercise
image credit: d11consulting.com

The other day I was leafing through some of my old workshop materials in preparation for my October seminar and I found a “Values” exercise. You might have done one of these before, where you look through a list of words like “Peace, Success, Wisdom, Integrity, Wealth, Time, Fame, Justice” etc etc. and you’re supposed to whittle them down to your top five values (here’s an example or this one). These top five values should then help give you direction in your big decisions. You’re supposed to remember them well enough to live your life intentionally aligned with them.

I look at it now and I think this exercise is flawed. It’s all well and good to think about what we value . . . but I think most of the time, we’ll end up choosing the words we simply like best (hey, these all sound good!). Of course most of these things we want to value. Maybe there’s no harm in that. Maybe it works as a list of values you aspire to.

To get a more accurate assessment of our top five values I think we need to be a little more realistic. My guess would be that if you briefly outlined where you spent your time every day for a week, you would see your top five values quite clearly. If not, maybe your spouse, roommate, sibling or parent could help you out.

I’m guessing this second list based on how we spend our time won’t be quite as noble-sounding as the first list but it will probably be a better starting place for understanding who we are.

For example, if you spend every evening watching shows and are always excited about finding a new series to watch, you value entertainment and relaxation. Which is great. I definitely value those things. I just think they wouldn’t necessarily show up if you asked me to pick my top five values out of a list. I don’t see myself as someone who sits in front of the TV every evening but the reality is that I do spend an hour most nights watching something.

Now, if you spend 80 hours a week at a job you hate, you might be thinking your time doesn’t really show what you value. Maybe not, but maybe it does. Maybe you simply value security or approval from your superiors more than you realize. Change is hard. Risk is well . . . very risky! Maybe you value loyalty so highly, it makes it hard for you to leave no matter how toxic the situation. If it’s paying you more than you could make in a job you would enjoy, maybe you’re staying because you value money or status more than you think.

So here’s an idea for a twist on this exercise: Do the first one where you pick them out of a list. Then spend a few days observing your daily schedule. Make the second list based on what your use of time says you value. Then compare them. Even better, compare them with someone who knows you well and can give you perspective.

  • Do they align?
  • Where are the discrepancies?
  • Are there steps you can take to move your second list into agreement with your first?
  • Is that even necessary?

Let me know what you discover! I’ll test it out myself over the next few days and let you know in the comments what I come up with.

A Pre-Marital Counseling Alternative

pre-marital counseling alternativeYou might be wondering why I’m thinking about pre-marital counseling when I usually write about work, faith, finding your calling etc. Well, this past weekend, we had a wonderful family wedding. The bride and groom were getting married outside of the state they lived in, and had met with the pastor who was officiating the wedding only about a week beforehand.

It reminded me of when John and I got married (eight years ago, yesterday!). We were attending one church near our university, were going to be married at his parent’s church in Seattle and neither pastor was going to officiate our ceremony. Our officiant was going to be my grandpa, who would be flying in from Canada the week of the wedding. What to do? We were lucky enough to get to attend a pre-marital counseling class through our college church as there happened to be several other engaged couples at the same time.

These days, we have many friends and family members who have been engaged long-distance, don’t have home churches, or don’t know any pastors and are planning to have a friend officiate their wedding. Where are they going for pre-marital counseling? We spend so much time preparing for a wedding that it’s easy to miss out on making the time to prepare for marriage in a formal way.

All of this got me thinking about . . .

A Pre-Marital Counseling Alternative

If you’re engaged and you want to build a strong marriage from the start, you should definitely be doing some kind of marriage preparation but maybe it doesn’t have to look like “traditional” pre-marital counseling. I’ve thought for a long time that the Birkman Method is a seriously great tool for couples. Why not use it as an alternative to “in-house” pre-marital counseling with a pastor?

While the language in the Birkman reports is primarily workplace-focused, most of the information easily translates into your home environment and your close personal relationships. Much of the information will be things you have already discovered or are in the process of figuring out. The Birkman can help you speed up that discovery process and also give a name to things you might sense but be unable to articulate.

One of the best things about the Birkman Method is how much it emphasizes the positive aspects of personality differences. The neutral language gives you a perfect platform to discuss behavior differences without attacking and accusing or feeling defensive and sensitive. The graphs are a visual reminder that both ends of the spectrum on any one component (say “prefers to work alone” vs “life of the party”) bring great strengths to the table, while the needs graphs give you a quick grasp of what’s necessary to work together most effectively.

The other great thing about the Birkman reports is that it does scientifically measure your needs – an area of life that we often have a difficult time discussing well with others. Sometimes it’s hard for us to articulate what we need. Sometimes we’re not even sure what we need. Sometimes we may feel that our needs are not valid. The information in your Birkman reports lends a conversation about needs some objectivity.

A quick Google search in the Seattle area showed me that there are a other pre-marital counseling alternative out there. We’re blessed to have John Gottman running marriage workshops (I wish I could go to that – I bet it’s fascinating!). You can also find regular counselors who specialize in pre-marital work. But you should definitely consider the Birkman Method if you’re dealing with any of the following issues:

  • long-distance
  • lack of time before the wedding
  • not having a home church/pastor you know well
  • not being comfortable with faith-based counseling options
  • not being able to afford a therapist’s session fee

So stay tuned, because I’m working hard on a discussion guide that can accompany your reports so you can turn pre-marital counseling into a series of great date night conversations. I will have more information about that for you soon!

If you want to contribute ideas to my project, please leave comments with your thoughts on a pre-marital counseling alternative, what you wish you had had or could find, how you went about the process of preparing for marriage etc. I would love your input!