As the Presidential race progresses over the next month, there will be many opportunities for you to fight with those who disagree with you. This is fine – and actually quite healthy – if both sides practice openness in listening and refrain from personal attacks. That’s the hard part.
I had a recent encounter with a friend who baited me with some negative comments about my favored candidate. Typically, I fell for the trap. I would attack his candidate in retaliation. And back and forth we would go. It’s the same ‘ol story: You attack my candidate, I’ll attack yours, we’ll continue until someone gets hurt (at least emotionally). In the end, nothing would have changed about our beliefs. Nobody would miraculously have swayed the other side. Yet, perhaps there would be a new wedge placed in the relationship.
I’ve played this game many times. It’s a visceral experience. When someone attacks our candidate, it feels as though some ferocious beast is suddenly waiting to be unleashed. But, I decided to take a different approach with my friend. This time, when my friend attacked my candidate and also me personally, I stopped in mid-sentence. I considered my character strengths. What strengths were needed in this moment? How might I play any of my character strengths to respond in a balanced way?
I decided to play several of the following strengths. Which resonate most with you?
As situations become complex, the more our strengths will be tested. One of the many challenges of character strengths use is to maintain the usage over time. This means we will have to rally constellations of strengths, frequently. It’s never a “one-and-done” expression. It’s an ongoing journey.
I suspect the more we can maintain a balance of multiple strengths, the more we are on a pathway of virtue and goodness.
This entry focused on character assassinations we make of one another during political discussions. For interesting insights into Presidential character assassinations, read Neal Mayerson’s post here.
This entry is dedicated to psychologist/researcher, Chris Peterson, who passed away this week. He was a man of towering intellect, quick wit, and endless generosity. He will be missed by countless educators, scientists, students, and practitioners around the world. His final blog entry on Psychology Today can be read here.
Dweck, C. (2008). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Ballantine Books.
Kashdan, T. B. (2009). Curious?: Discover the missing ingredient to a fulfilling life. New York: HarperCollins.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Witvliet, C. V. O., DeYoung, N. J., Hofelich, A. J., & DeYoung, P. A. (2011). Compassionate reappraisal and emotional suppression as alternatives to offense-focused rumination: Implications for forgiveness and psychophysiological well-being. Journal of Positive Psychology, 6(4), 286-299.
Learn more about strengths:
To measure your character strengths and discover your signature strengths, go to www.viame.org
To apply character strengths in your practice and life, go to www.viapros.org