Ask Vicki: Relationship Advice Using the Five Elements

He Has a Challenge with the “S” Word: Structure

Dear Vicki: I manage an assisted living facility and I take pride in what I do. We run by the rules; things are kept ship-shape. A great crew of people help keep things in order and as comfortable for the seniors as possible. However, one of my employees constantly gives me trouble. His name is Peter, and he’s caring, compassionate, creative, and impossible to keep in line. Whenever we have a plan in place, without asking Peter will change it on the fly. Without permission, he buys more craft material than we budgeted, brings in treats for the residents, reads to our seniors past lights out time, or comes dressed in a clown costume to entertain them. I have reminded him of our guidelines dozens of times, and he seems surprised and contrite, but nothing changes. And if I clamp down and create stricter boundaries for him, he becomes uncharacteristically reactive and almost seems to ignore them. Everyone here loves Peter, but I think I need to let him go, which will make me the bad guy. Can you help? Signed: At Wits End

Dear Wits End: Clearly, Peter does care about your facility and your seniors. But I really don’t think Peter is the problem. Instead, I would like to suggest that it is your individual elemental personalities and how they relate to each other that is the core issue. As someone who takes pride in their ability to run by the rules, keep things ship-shape and in order, I believe that you are a primary Metal personality. On the other hand, Peter, who is caring, compassionate, and devoted, is clearly a primary Earth personality. And on the surface, that should make for a good relationship between the two of you because the Earth and Metal personalities relate on the Nurturing Cycle of the Five Elements model (the big circle in the model below).

That said, I also think Peter shows a lot of Water personality characteristics, too. Not sticking to guidelines, a great deal of creativity, changing things at the drop of a hat, these are all behaviors that are quite natural for Water people. They like to flow wherever they want, whenever they want. Rules are for other people, not them. And of course, your Metal personality – the biggest supporter of rules and regulations – isn’t going to like this one bit. So let’s see what we can do to help the situation.

The fact that Peter has a primary Earth personality is probably why you hired him. The way your primary elemental personalities relate via the Nurturing Cycle is that his Earth feeds your Metal. That works for you because every supervisor likes to feel supported by their employees. However, when Peter is in a Watery place, which I think is more often than you may realize, you still relate via the Nurturing Cycle, but it is your Metal that feeds his Water. And while supervisors know they need to support their employees, Metal people tend to do that only when it works for them. At their core, Metals don’t like people demanding anything. They’d much rather present their wisdom and their skills when the time is right for them. So, I suspect that the attention Peter’s Water personality requires from you is part of the problem. But it’s not the main problem. There’s a bigger problem when Metal and Water people clash, and that’s the issue of structure.

Structure goes to the heart of what defines the Metal personality. Process, protocol, the “right” way to do things, these are all near and dear to a Metal person’s heart. And for good reason. Metal people have seen the whole of a cycle and know what works the best and what doesn’t work as well. Perfection is a driving goal for them, which means managing every effort to obtain an optimal result really matters. This makes a Metal person’s approach to life more structured than any of the other elemental personalities. However, innovation rarely comes from the Metal mind. It usually comes from the Water and/or Wood personalities. And it always requires the ability to think outside of the box. And this ability sits in Water.

As a primary Earth, secondary Water personality, Peter will be creative and imaginative in ways that help others. You have probably seen this time and time again. And while the Earth part of his personality will want to keep you happy, the Water part will care little for your rules and guidelines, which you have also seen. When you try to fence him in, his Water will resist – Water people really do hate being limited – and he will flow around them. But it’s important to remember that he’s not intentionally trying to break your rules, he’s really just going with the flow of his newest great idea. If you push, if you try harder to structure him, his Water will just continue to flow away. And trust me, this will be a losing battle.

If you want to keep Peter on your team, there are ways you can manage him that I actually think will not be too difficult for you. That’s because while you are clearly a primary Metal personality, the fact that you are passionate about helping the seniors in your assisted living facility suggests that you have a strong secondary Earth personality. If you can manage Peter more from that Earth part of your personality, I think you will be surprised how well things will go. And there are three important reasons for this.

First, Earth energy is about balance, which will be good for everyone. Second, your Earth energy will bond with his Earth energy because Earth people are all about connections. In truth, I think you will find that a working relationship with Peter will be much easier Earth personality to Earth personality than Metal personality to Water personality. Finally, it will also be much easier for you to manage his Watery tendencies from your Earth personality because Earth and Water relate via the Controlling Cycle (the big star) in the Five Elements model.

In nature, it is always the earth that guides and holds water (think riverbeds, ocean shores, etc.). You can build your Earth in any of the many ways I have suggested in previous posts here. While at work, surround yourself in yellow (clothing, wall colors, artwork, etc.), wear tigers eye or rose quartz crystals, drink lemon balm tea, etc. These will all help you act and react more from a place of Earth energy.

If you can step away from the fact that your Metal personality is upset that Peter isn’t following your rules and allow the Earth part of your personality to embrace the good intentions behind what he does, I think things will go much more smoothly. And when you have to talk to Peter about guidelines and rules, which with a Water personality is hard to avoid, coming from your Earth energy will make a big difference. That’s because when you speak to him from an Earth place (caring, compassionate, connected), his Earth personality will resonate with you and take it in. Even the Water part of his personality will take it in better because, as we said above, Earth is the natural guide for Water.

I truly believe that with the combined efforts of your elemental personalities working together (Metal, Earth, and Water), you and Peter can create something really beautiful for the seniors you serve. Many Blessings to you on your important work!