Reality Check: Strength or Weakness?

Every one of us has specific strengths. If you like to learn about yourself, then it can be quite satisfying to figure out your individual strengths and how to best use them to reach your goals.
Strengths are generally positive attributes; qualities that we take pride in. If you take a few minutes now to make a list of your strengths, what would you find?
For example, your strengths might be: hard-working, self-confident, ambitious, principled, fair. Those all sound pretty positive, eh?
Let’s take self-confidence, for example. If you had little or no self-confidence, that could hold you back. It could contribute to not wanting to try new things. It can make it difficult to make friends or to form lasting relationships. Lack of self-confidence can make it difficult to learn, to thrive in a workplace, to fit into a community. Self-confidence is valuable. It’s a strength.
Now here’s an interesting question: Can we take a strength too far?
For example, what if we have an overabundance of self-confidence? We could be perceived as arrogant, which can also contribute to making it difficult to make friends or form lasting relationships.
Too much self-confidence could give us the belief that we can do anything. That could set us up for failure if in fact, we don’t have the skill and knowledge that corresponds to that self-confidence.
And it can blind us to the reality that some of our ideas or actions may not be worthy of the confidence we have in them. That strength of self-confidence could become a weakness.
According to Have a Nice Conflict, by Scudder, Patterson & Mitchell, when a strength is overused or applied inappropriately, it could be perceived as a weakness.
Here’s another example—fairness. Is it possible that there’s such a thing as too much fairness? What would that look like?
Taking fairness to an extreme could mean that we would be unable or unwilling to respond with appropriate flexibility in a situation that calls for more creativity than we can get from a rigidly “fair” formula.
How about the strength of clarifying? It’s a useful strength (and it’s one of mine.) However, when taken too far, this strength means that I could be stuck clarifying a problem forever, never reaching the point where I perceive that everything is clear enough to take action.
If the world contained only clarifiers, there might not be a whole lot getting done! But we’d be very busy as we thoroughly figure out exactly what the problem is, I can assure you.
So while it’s helpful to know our strengths, it’s also useful to know that taking any strength to an extreme can have a downside.
Along with recognizing the “overused-strength-as-weakness” possibility in my own behaviour, I find this perspective useful when observing other people’s behaviour. If I can remember that someone else’s annoying behaviour might be the result of overusing a strength, rather than an attempt to deliberately annoy me, I can manage a more generous response than I might otherwise.
So, when my boss declines my request for the day off because it’s against policy, even though my cat is sick, I have choices in how to perceive it. I can get mad and say, “She’s just mean.” Or I can perceive her response as coming from her strength of being a principled rule-follower, and see it as, “She’s maintaining her principle of following the rules.”
In general, I appreciate someone who has principles and follows the rules. That makes it a little easier to tolerate this denial as a reasonable response, maintain the relationship, and search for a solution that falls within the rules. Something that will work for her, me, and of course, the cat.
Do you ever see strengths taken too far?

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