Four Lenses system helps couples communicate

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. James Branch
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Chris Walser is so clean cut that he might be mistaken for a G.I. He isn’t a member of the military, but his wife Jesse is.

Capt. Jessica Walser, 932nd Medical Squadron critical care nurse, is preparing for her first deployment and Chris will remain behind with their children, 3 and 1. Not having their mother at home for a significant amount of time will be a first for the toddlers.

Chris Walser works full time as an information technology consultant. Jesse is a stay-at-home mother and part-time nurse while attending graduate college courses online and serving as a Reserve Citizen Airman at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

The two of them had concerns about Captain Walser’s deployment and received some tips on dealing with them at an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon event in Orlando, Florida in May. Yellow Ribbon promotes the well-being of reservists and their loved ones by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.

The couple participated in the “Communicating through the Four Lenses” breakout session. The Four Lenses is a personality assessment that helps individuals gain an understanding of another’s unique strengths, motivations and temperaments. The assessments determine if a person’s blue, green, orange or yellow. The concept, created from the research of the Myers Briggs’ Personality Type Indicator, is aimed at building better and stronger relationships through effective communication, said retired Lt. Col. Barbara Godsey, Four Lenses instructor for Yellow Ribbon.

After completing a personality assessment, Chris Walser was identified as a green, who are generally independent thinkers and non-conformists. They love challenges and can be totally consumed until they are completed. Good communication is not one of their best traits.

“I realize at some point we’ll have to discuss switching roles,” Chris said. “Jesse spends more time with our children than I do, since I work long hours.”

Jesse’s color is blue. “Blues” are nurturing people, typically working in professions in which they can help others. They love to talk and like to avoid conflict or contention.

“When I found out about my upcoming deployment, I got a little worried,” said Jesse. “How will my husband handle the kids, along with his job and other household duties, I wondered? I hope he doesn’t become frustrated and overwhelmed.”

Godsey said communication will be important not only for the couple, but for their children as well, and it’s very common for everyone to feel anxiety before a significant event such as a deployment.

“When people experience stress, they may downshift, or take on a different color,” said Godfrey. “In many cases, the military can motivate individuals to operate as gold personalities because of its frequent use of checklists and the structured lifestyle.”

“Golds” are highly organized people. They like to stick to detailed tasks and see them through, said Godfrey. They are viewed as highly dependable, neat and orderly.

Godsey encouraged couples to keep the other person’s color in mind when communicating their thoughts and concerns.

“Treat people by the lens they are wearing at that particular time,” she said.

Staff Sgt. James Distano, 919th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron crew chief, and his wife, Alisa, attended Four Lenses training at a Yellow Ribbon event July 20-22 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Distano, who considers himself a “Green/Orange,” will also deploy soon. Oranges thrive on excitement and physical challenges. He and Alisa run a Bible study group together.

“I am a ‘Blue’ and love to talk to people,” said Alisa. “Between our parents and our Bible study group, I’ve built a strong support system for myself while he is deployed. The breakout session was very beneficial to us, and being able to communicate effectively with each other helps us both prepare for his departure.”

Godsey advised that the communication through the four lenses is vital not only before the deployment, but also during the reintegration phase.

“One of the key elements of truly understanding your partner is not only your ability to speak, but to listen,” she said. “Knowing one’s color won’t tell you everything about them, but it will give you an idea of how to communicate with them.”

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, Yellow Ribbon began following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 7,000 reservists and those closest to them in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.