11. Refiner (From The Discern Family)
Designer, counselor, stylist, surgeon, coach, editor. Refiners will not let us settle for mediocrity. They insist that we go for the gold and give our best. Our lives would far less without their insights, discernment and passion to make the world the best it can be. Can you picture yourself driving a Model T to work or going to the doctor for your weekly leeching? What about wearing the latest in sackcloth or homespun fashion from the runways of Milan and Paris? Refiners help us progress. They love to enrich and improve people, places and things. They inspire others to improve themselves, to reach beyond what they know and think possible.
As a Refiner, I am delighted that my improved profiling methodology has been enthusiastically and popularly received. I combined old-world concepts, observational analysis, natural empathy and word pictures and refined them to make profiles more easily and better understood. My goal was to create a simplified language that everyone could use without having a Ph.D. When people ask me how I did it, I tell them I just saw it. I saw the possibilities by looking beyond what there was to what there could be. My brother Brian is also a Refiner. He took the simple concept of word-of-mouth referrals and developed it into a powerful tool for relational marketing referral businesses. He now heads the largest, most successful coaching company in America, and he is still refining, enriching and improving.
Members of the Discern family have an above-average grasp of unseen factors in a given situation. They use their unique capability of seeing what’s ahead down the road to clarify big-picture jobs and projects and improve them. Unlike the Performer’s ability to be seen, this is the ability to see. Simply put, those with Discern attributes have an x-ray eye.
This is a truth-teller ability. For Refiners, the truth they see can get them into trouble and cause them heartache. I liken them to messengers in ancient times. What did they do to the messenger if they didn’t like the message? They killed the messenger. Refiners can be vilified for their insights and discernment. I tell them, “You can see train wrecks before they happen. For you, it’s logical and natural to look ahead. Others may not share this ability. Their short-sightedness and disbelief may contribute to the wreck.” I advise those with a Discern ability to use it first on themselves by asking, “Is this the highest and best use of my time? Is this an audience capable of hearing what I have to say? Can they bear the truth?” By asking questions of their audience to feel them out, they are in a better position to decide whether it would be helpful or hurtful to share what they see.
Refiners are designed to see what’s wrong with the world. However, they must be invited to contribute or share this information. Without request or invitation, if Refiners present visions that are troubling or negative they may be perceived by their audience as judgmental, overly critical, or tyrannical. Refiners don’t see it that way. They only want to make things better. Refiners can also have a pragmatic motivation and want to see substantial change.
The Refiner ability makes for a wonderful parent. Those who have this attribute want to encourage their children to be the best they can be. But this same ability can turn a nurturing mother or father into a tyrant. So, son Johnny can run for all he’s worth and do the hundred yards in 15.2 seconds and hear from the Refiner parent: “Son, that was great, but if you tried harder, you could do it in 14.8 seconds.” Or, daughter Amy might come home with a B+ and hear, “Well, Amy, if you studied harder and watched less TV, you could get an A.” Refiners have to be careful not to overdo it.
Inefficiency makes Refiners irritable. I’ll use myself as an example. When my wife grabs the wrong side of the sheet when we make the bed…because she’s left-handed…I get annoyed. Actually, I’m annoyed by the inefficiency. Refiners are control-oriented. They can end up organizing their sock drawer as a way of controlling their environment.
Anyone with a Discern attribute is immediately aware of not growing and moving toward what they’re designed to do. It’s tough on them to feel they’re out of control. They may grip the steering wheel so tightly that they lose control of the car. They tend to hyper-focus on the wrong control issues…minor inefficiencies or displeasure at their own imagined lack of organization.
Because Refiners are designed to improve or enhance, they can be opinionated. They have a sincere desire to make things better and a tremendous ability to see beyond a problem to refinements and solutions. However, they tread on others’ toes when they try to fix things that are not theirs to fix. Occasionally, their perception is off, but they see it as correct. It’s not about opinions; it’s about what they see and how they see it. Sometimes they don’t have all the information they need.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey tells a story about himself riding the subway. A father with two small sons got on and sat next to Covey. The children ran up and down the car, raising cain and bumping into passengers. Covey discerned that the father was a poor parent because he didn’t seem to have the ability to stop his sons from misbehaving. He shared this insight with the father, who replied, “We have come from the hospital where their mother just died. What do I tell them?” What Covey saw was true and real, but he missed the full picture because he lacked information.
Refiners mine diamonds in the sense that they actively seek the best and look for perfection. The passive side of this ability can unwittingly make them enablers. Discerners may see another person for what that person can become and fail to consider all the factors. They see unrealized potential and try to draw it out, but the person may have no desire to cooperate. Discerners can create a passive, enabling environment and set the person up to disappoint them. That person will never realize the potential the Discerner saw. Discerners must learn to look for green lights before they move forward.
A story to illustrate these points. A woman with a Discern attribute falls in love with Oscar Madison. One day, she sees him pick up a piece of paper, and she is so happy! She says to herself, “Hey, if I just put a trash can here and a laundry basket there, and we have a housekeeper two days a week, this relationship can work! I can improve that slob, Oscar, into the neat, wonderful Felix Unger that I want. Well, they get married, and Oscar moves in. She finds out that her new hubby loves being a slob. He’s not Felix. He loves being Oscar! She’s married to chaos, and that can be supremely frustrating.
Oprah had a guest who said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” That is terrific advice for those with a Discern ability.
Because Refiners have this ability, they assume other people have it. And, they’re indignant when others don’t act on it, as they do. Say that someone runs into a brick wall. If you have a Discern attribute, you can see from far off that it’s not a door. Your first reaction is: What kind of idiot is that?” or: Why didn’t they see that?
Those with a Discern attribute have less tolerance or empathy when people make mistakes repeatedly.