In part one, I discussed how, when we are asked to discuss our strengths, it is easy to create a barrier—a false humility. People then rationalize this by placing blame on their culture, personal anxiety, and a host of other reasons.
Here, in part two, is my argument for why non-avoidance of one’s strengths of character is important:
I have a friend whose highest strength is humility. Just as all of us overuse our character strengths from time to time, she overuses her humility. The result is people do not get a chance to know her. I tend to not know about her many accomplishments and positive experiences (or I end up finding out about them from others) because she does not readily share them. Thus, I feel as if I don’t know her as well as my other friends.
What I’m not saying:
I’m not advocating for selfish sharing that neglects the other person.
We must listen and empathize, for sure. These are foundational to healthy relationships. Instead, I am making a case for eliminating any excuses, shyness, or ways in which we might fool ourselves (e.g., believing that it’s not humble to share) so that we can put our best foot forward and connect more deeply with others.
I’m not attacking humility.
In fact, quite the contrary. Humility scientists have found that a true humility is not captured by degrading ourselves, berating ourselves, keeping ourselves shut up, or being subservient, rather a true humility involves having a confident, strong self-esteem in which we can easily prioritize and turn the attention toward others. A humble person does not rely on the praise of others in order to feel better. For years I have emphasized the importance of this character strength, and the sharing of our strengths from a perspective of deep humility. Even though groups have occasionally laughed when I have argued for the importance of humility and the finding that it is one of the least common strengths around the world, I maintain it is a critically important strength and, as Everett Worthington calls it, a quiet virtue.
I’m not saying to be culturally insensitive or socially unintelligence.
Instead, I’m arguing that our ways of communicating with others needs to be more balanced, and it certainly needs to include more on strengths.
It comes down to creating a balanced approach in our relationships. If we are just comfortable sharing what is wrong or what is neutral we are not revealing the whole picture. And, if we limit ourselves to only sharing the mundane or the negative, we accept mediocrity and are less likely to strive to keep improving ourselves and our work. The idea is to share a wide range of perspectives and feelings—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful.
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VIA Institute (the nonprofit organization)
VIA Classification (the system of strengths and virtues)
VIA Survey (the research-validated test)