At Leadership Vision, we believe that Strengths do not work alone, but in pairs. For example, my Activator is influenced by my Strategic, in that, I am able to make decisions and move forward quickly because I quickly survey the potential obstacles and outcomes.
But what happens when one Strength becomes overbearing? For me, when this happens, my judgment becomes clouded, one-sided, and I feel un-centered.
The Strength I am most aware of and serves as the foundation for all of my other Strengths is Empathy. I LOVE this Strength! Others can see their best and worst days reflected in my face and they can feel my willingness and desire to be with them in their time of need to support and celebrate. But I also have to be careful to not let this overwhelm how I operate every day, especially in my relationships. If I’m constantly putting myself in the position to express and meet the emotional needs of everyone around me, I will not be productive nor will I be caring for my own emotional well-being.
My tendency is to default to this Strength when a situation becomes confusing or emotionally overwhelming. I seek to make sense of the situation by picking up on the emotional nuances from others. This can be a slippery slope because I can lose sight of where their interpretations begin and my own end.
When I’m not utilizing the generative nature of my other Strengths…when I am not paying attention to how they pair and augment my Empathy, things go awry. This is when Empathy can be overbearing, but below are some of the tactics I’ve practiced in an effort to harness it, and should be applicable to your Strengths as well.
Step Back and Assess
If you find that you are “off your game” and not sure why, take time to step back and assess what Strength has become overbearing. Ask yourself questions like:
- Are you leaning too heavily on just one? Which one?
- Should you enlist the help of another Strength? Which one?
For example, my friend Jason has a tendency to lean heavily on his Strength of Ideation when he senses the absence of clear direction. At times, this can be overwhelming for a group as he will suggest multiple alternatives paths and pull everyone even further away from the process of identifying how best to move forward.
What life Experiences are Influencing how you Show Up?
Consider what current or past life events and experiences are influencing why you might be defaulting to this one Strength.
- Has someone recently betrayed your trust and therefore you are leaning heavily into Analytical as a way to triple check other’s work?
- What are the potential consequences of this? You may isolate and offend others.
It could be as simple as being exhausted. Though innate, Strengths take work and intention to leverage in generative ways. When I get tired or fed-up, I have a tendency to become impatient and seek only to leverage my Activator and completely betray the instincts of my Strategic and Empathy. I almost always end up regretting this. My impulsive actions can lead to unintended consequences.
There are times in life when certain situations demand an overbearing Strength and should not be considered a bad thing. In fact, it can be a form of survival. For example, in the time that my daughter and I were ill, my Activator kicked into overdrive as I was having to make complicated and difficult decisions quickly, while my Empathy went nearly dormant. In these moments, it’s important to be mindful of situational circumstances for yourself and for others.
Be Honest with yourself and with Others
Strengths self-awareness is not perfect. One of the benefits of establishing a Strengths-based culture at home and at work is that you are able to engage your friends, family, and co-workers in Strengths accountability. Being honest with those around you about the Strengths that are dominating your approach will help them support you toward becoming more centered.
Empathy can be a very heavy Strength. Over the last two years, with support from Linda, I have matured in this Strength. I am learning how to be with someone in their emotions but not to take them on as my own. I also know that I am not responsible to another person’s emotions; I can feel them but not be obligated to acknowledge them or feel ownership in helping that person make sense of what they are feeling. When I sense myself veering into that lane, I try to be honest with the person, “I want to support you in this space AND right now my Empathy is influencing how I am responding to what you’ve shared. I am having a hard time differentiating what you’ve shared and how I truly feel. I’m worried I am not able to remain objective in an effort to support you best.”
This is a statement that I have had to use on numerous occasions, especially when the situation they are reflecting on has also affected me and we are having different reactions. These interactions can become especially degenerative when we end up focusing only on the emotional experience and not looking to how the situation might be improved. A much more generative approach for me in these moments, is to pair up my Empathy with my Developer, which influences my ability to see the possibilities in people and in situations.
Harnessing Your Strengths Pairs
These tactics help me when I’m experiencing an overbearing Strength and they have positively influenced my Strengths self-awareness. Which of your Strengths has a tendency to be overbearing? Learn more about the power of leveraging your Strength Pairs.