How do you describe your character? What would your friends say are your most prominent character strengths? Bravery, creativity, kindness, and gratitude perhaps? Or how about persistence, fairness, humour…? There are, of course, many others.
But disguised in each of these strengths is a shadow side that we can fail to recognise if we’re not careful. None of us are perfect. And so if we asked our friends and colleagues to honestly say what they find most irritating about us, our list of ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ might well be almost identical:
- You’re really creative? But you sometimes forget or ignore day-to-day processes and protocols.
- You’re really kind? But you find it hard to make tough decisions that affect others or to give honest, critical feedback.
- You’re really hopeful and optimistic? But you sometimes bite off more than you can chew and cause avoidable stress for yourself and others.
- You’re really zestful and energetic? But others find you tiring to be around sometimes. And you can tend to interfere with others’ desire for calmness and quiet?
As we really start to know ourselves better by exploring the strengths and limitations of our own character, and remaining open to feedback from those we trust, there is an enhanced opportunity to understand how we are known by others. Embracing this learning fertilises our social intelligence. We become more self-aware and more aware of our effect on others.
And, perhaps most importantly, when we recognise both sides of our own character, it helps remind us that behind the imperfections and faults in our friends, colleagues and family are the same beautiful human qualities that we love in them.