Understanding your Adaptability Character: Emotional Range

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Your adaptability is often very context sensitive, understanding your own character preferences is incredibly important, so that you can make choices about how you respond to the changes that you come to.  

Emotional Range is an interesting character trait within the Adaptability Quotient (AQ) framework.  The assessment establishes the position between two extremes, ’Collected’ which means you have a lot of control over the expression of your emotions.  You can readily manage them and have a real choice about whether you express them.  At the other end, ‘Reactive’ you will wear your heart on your sleeve.  You will be a WYSIWYG type person, (What You See Is What You Get).  You may end up in situations where you express your emotion first, and then consider your response.  Whereas somebody on the Collected end of the spectrum is probably going to hold back on expressing their emotions and think through their response before choosing what emotions come to them.  

Choosing how to Express your Emotional Range

I’m reminded strongly of my wife who I would identify as more towards the Reactive end of the spectrum.  But for many years she was an A&E nurse.  She was used to dealing with crisis.  She was trained not to express her emotions in the face of crisis.  When we had family crises, that emergency nursing response would kick in.  She would be very Collected, very matter of fact, and deal effectively with whatever the situation was.  But then 24, 36 hours or 48 hours later, all those emotions would come flooding back.  I think that’s quite illustrative, of how we can understand our default Character in this area and then make choices about how we respond to a particular situation.  

Understanding how Others will see You

It is important for you to recognise the impact that your character preference has on other people.  Imagine a marketing agency.  You’ve got a finance department.  You’ve got a creative department.  You might expect that in the creative department, they wear their hearts on their sleeves.  Their emotions are much more out there.  They are Reactive in the sub-dimension of Character.  However, you might expect in the finance department that they are very Collected.  They don’t express their emotions.  They are very controlled in their emotions.  Now imagine that the business is going through a difficult time.  The finances are under threat.  There may be some really difficult decisions to ensure the future of the company.  The finance function may deal with this in a very Collected way.  If a finance director communicates to the creative department inappropriately, he may be very surprised by their Reactive preference, because he expects them to be as Collected as he is.

On the other side, the creative department will see the finance department expressing their Collected preference.  They will think they don’t care.  They will interpret the lack of expression of emotion as a lack of sympathy or empathy.  So, as the finance director engaging with the whole company, you will need to recognise that different people within the company, have different character preferences ranging between Collected and Reactive. You will need to modify the way you communicate with these different groups.  It may be reassuring to the creatives that you appear to feel everything is under control.  However it may be more important that you recognise their emotional journey of response to change.  If you are a creative and you are Reactive by preference, you need to recognise that others ranged across the spectrum between Reactive and Collected.  More Collected people will seek to deal with things in different ways.  The fact that they show up as Collected doesn’t necessarily mean they are not worried, concerned, sympathetic or empathetic.  It’s just that they don’t express it in the same way as you do.  

The Flip

There is one other thing that I think is well worth recognising.  Through my experience with other personality preference profiling, I would suggest that when the chips are down, when there’s an extreme situation in which you need to respond, you sometimes flip from your default preference to an extreme expression of the end of the range.  So occasionally you might see the finance director completely losing it.  Occasionally you might see somebody in the creative department faced with an impossible deadline and incredible client pressure, shutting down and pushing through, holding back their emotions.  A little bit like my wife who had learned in the accident and emergency department, to deal with crisis and hold her emotions back, she could then take that into every situation.


Whether you’re an individual, a team leader or somebody leading in an organisation, it is important to understand the Character sub-dimension of Emotional Range.  As you understand how this varies in the people across the organisation, in teams and individuals (especially yourself) you will be able to better communicate and support Adaptability in the face of change.


Charles McLachlan is the founder of FuturePerfect and on a mission to transform the future of work and business. The Portfolio Executive programme is a new initiative to help executives build a sustainable and impactful second-half-career. Creating an alternative future takes imagination, design, organisation and many other thinking skills. Charles is happy to lend them to you.