Does your strength or strong personality attribute have a dark side? Try this exercise to grow your emotional intelligence and improve your relationships.
Discuss, print, enjoy, and share the love.
Hello my brave community of Lega-Leaders (Relationship Legacy Leaders) who are changing the world, and the legacies handed to them, for the better right where they are! For more information about Relationship Legacy Leaders, please read my past blog posts: 5 easy ways to start being a relationship legacy leader right now (1), what is a relationship legacy leader (2), or the deeper meaning behind the name MoxiePsychology Legacy (3).
In today's blog, I have an exercise that will help grow your self-awareness, shine some light on a potential blind spot of yours, and improve your relationships. I want to get you thinking about your biggest strength, and what the dark side of that strength might be. You just might have a glaring blind spot!!
The truth is, we all have blind spots (me included). If you cannot admit to having blind spots, then you might need to work on your self-awareness and your ability to grow and accept feedback. Did you know that in our training as therapists we are encouraged to continuously work on and be aware of our blind spots? This is so we do not accidentally significantly harm others through our blindness. I think this is important and beneficial for everyone to work on (not just therapists)!
The reason I want to get you thinking about this, is that rarely are things cut and dry or black and white. In my experience as a relationship therapist I see and read about examples of this every day. I think that having an extreme strength is an example where it is mostly beneficial (and extremely helpful) for one’s life; however, there is often a significant downside that needs to be acknowledged and explored (especially when it comes to relationships and in leadership positions) in order to prevent accidental harm to others from our blind spots.
A personality trait or strength may be extremely beneficial in one context, but an extreme detriment in another. Often in our romantic relationships, our partner knows exactly what that detriment is, because he or she sees us at our best and at our worst. Same goes for any close relationships we may have (family, friends, work relationships, etc.).
Although, there is a difference for work relationships... They they usually get our highest performing selves while our family sees us at the end of the work day when we are physically and emotionally depleted. As you can imagine, this can create some problems if we are not aware of or sensitive to this dynamic! Our weaknesses and negative aspects of our personality can be more likely to come out after a long day.
Many times when we are dating, we are attracted to a certain strong quality (or qualities) about someone, and it may even be a quality that is the exact polar opposite of our own! Initially, this can lead to fireworks, romance, and passion, but as the relationship matures and grows, these differences must be worked through in a way that feels good to both parties. Furthermore, as time goes on these differences may even now be the source of significant frustration and hurt. What once was a quality that was so attractive is now the quality that bothers you the most (or maybe drives you crazy)! Every couple has to find a way to navigate these difference in order to be happy and satisfied over the long run.
I think that if you are in a marriage and you want to grow in your personal self-awareness, as well as in the strength of your relationship overall, it’s helpful to have an understanding and acceptance of who you each are. Actually, I believe it’s vital to the success of your marriage or relationship.
Why? One, so you both can avoid getting to the place where your differences tear you apart until you break up or divorce. Two, to help you approach one another with understanding and good listening skills, and to not try to expect something that the other person just cannot give or do well. Three, to create meaningful dialogue that supports win-win scenarios that involves capitalizing on each other’s strengths to solve problems successfully.
Especially in regards to extreme strengths or strong aspects of our personality (for example, introvert versus an extrovert), these are things that themselves cannot be changed much (if at all). What can be discussed, explored, and changed is HOW you discuss them, and how you work with each other’s natural tendencies to find better solutions.
You need to find ways to roll with each others differences instead of rolling OVER each other with your one way of doing things.
Ready to grow and discuss what you have learned? Feel brave enough to shine a light on a potential blind spot? Don’t be scared! Lega-Leaders let’s do this!
Name one of your biggest strengths or strongest beneficial personality attributes.
List out why you believe this strength or helpful personality attribute really stands out. What is the evidence, and what are the facts supporting this belief?
How has this significantly benefited YOU in your life in general? If you are doing this exercise to understand yourself better as a leader, you should also list out how your example has helped you personally in leading at work, in a group you are in charge of, or as a parent (parents are leaders!). If you are doing this in the context of a romantic relationship, you would want to list out how this has benefited you in your relationship.
How has_________________(your answer from step 1) significantly benefited others in your life?
Are there any extreme tendencies or personality attributes that you demonstrate that go along with your strength? (For example, you have a strength that you are a very hard worker and always make sure to get the job done, no matter what. Even if the job takes 12 hours, you will get it done in one day which has led to career growth and financial stability.)
What do you see as the dark side (or potential drawbacks) to your strength or personality attribute?
If you are having a hard time with this, you might think of your strength in terms of it’s opposite… Maybe you are extremely creative, innovative, and dislike structure, and this has greatly benefited your career and relationships. However, you find that you let people down when you need to follow a certain path or procrastinate when you need to follow the rules (following rules and structure is the opposite of your strength).
What feedback or constructive criticism have you received about the downside of your strength or personality attribute? Have you ever received any?
Sometimes when you are in a position of power people may be hesitant to give you honest feedback, unless honest and respectful feedback has been developed as part of that system (work, school, home, etc.) from the beginning. Something to note and be aware of…
How has___________________(your answer from step 1) negatively impacted those around you in the past? Can you think of any specific examples? Any present problems currently?
How might___________________ (your answer from step 1) potentially negatively impact future circumstances or relationships?
Given your answers above, in a few sentences, summarize a blind spot that you have that springs from a huge strength of yours or a strong personality attribute:
Now that you have awareness of the dark side of your strength or personality attribute, how can you use this to develop better win-win scenarios with others in your life moving forward? List out all the ideas you can think of!
Being honest and acknowledging your tendencies is a good place to start!
Given your greater awareness of the downsides of your strengths or personality attributes, how can this help you to grow your empathy and understanding for people who are different than you (who have different personalities and strengths)?
It can often be easier to be more understanding of our own weaknesses than other people’s, which is why I am picking your brain for ideas on how you can be more empathetic.
How can you use your increased self-awareness on the dark side of your strongest strengths or personality attributes to now find ways to mitigate (or lessen) the harmful effects of that dark side? How can you lessen the blow so to speak...?
Do you have someone you could share these answers with? Who? Would he or she be willing to give you some constructive and respectful feedback on the topic?
I hope this exercise was enlightening for you! I also hope that you pair this exercise with a huge dose of love, and overflowing understanding for yourself and others. This exercise can be a practice in fully embracing yourself and all the complexities that make you who you are. You are not good or bad, you are whole as you are!
There is no shame in being you. This often includes having a strength in one area that makes us not as good in something else. That’s okay. That’s life, and we are all in the same boat! And life in that boat would be BORING if we were all the same. We are often drawn to others exactly because they are different than us, and other people are attracted to us because we are different than them.
People love you exactly for who you are—so be you! Just like you love people for who they are (even with their warts).
This world needs more Lega-Leaders like you who are daily finding ways to celebrate each other’s strengths, and who are driven to find ways to collaborate even though we are different and not perfect.
Lega-Leaders, what do you have to say about this topic?
Thanks for joining me today. As a lega-leader, what blind spots have you discovered? Are you in a long-term romantic relationship, family relationship, or friendship where you both have completely opposite strengths or personalities (introvert vs. extrovert, loud vs. quiet, organized and logical vs. messy and creative, etc.)? Any opposite attributes that drive you a little crazy? What do you believe are good ways to develop win-win scenarios that elevate everyone’s positive attributes and strengths (instead of being driven bonkers by them)? I would love to hear your ideas! Please share, because your ideas and solutions may help someone else!
All the best,
PS- Can I send you an email about once a week? The email will have a link to my latest blog post in case there is a topic you are interested in. As the business grows and I add more products and services, I will mention in the email what has been added.
References and Links
Hello and welcome!
This video is for you dreamers out there who like me, want to make the world a better place through supporting mental health, valuing healthy communication, and championing thriving relationships. I share with you simple ways to start living out your values today.
All the best,
PS Can I send you an email about once a week? The email will have a link to my latest blog post in case there is a topic you are interested in. As the business grows and I add more products and services, I will mention in the email what has been added.
Discuss, print, enjoy, and share the love.
Do you value psychological health and thriving relationships? If you do, then read on. Today I will discuss 5 easy (and impactful) ways to start being a relationship legacy leader right now (1). You might be someone who values strong relationships, but you would love some inspirational ideas where to start. Or maybe you are a manager or CEO who is looking for ways to connect with your employees. You might even be a parent looking for some tips for nurturing a healthy family.
To review or if you are new (welcome!), a relationship legacy leader is:
Someone who is committed to healthy relationships and emotional health for themselves, and also for the people around them. These progressive leaders deeply value thriving and resilient relationships, but are also keenly aware of the relational and emotional impact they have on other people: their partner or spouse, friends, relatives, co-workers, people in their community, kids, etc. These leaders know that in order to collaborate effectively, achieve the greatest growth, and to experience meaning and satisfaction out of life it takes growing our relationship and emotional skills. They intentionally seek out where they can make a difference, and make a conscious choice to do something positive. Whether the impact is on a few people or many, they know it all matters.
Seriously, whether your impact is mainly with your close family members or you are a CEO of a large company, it’s all important. What you do matters. The small steps and changes you make are significant, and can completely change your life and the lives of those around you. For example, can you think back to something that someone did or said that completely changed your life in a positive way? Was there a close friend, a coach, a mentor, or a teacher that had a positive impact on you? What did they say or do? That person made a personal choice to say or do what they did; it wasn’t an accident. You can make choices like that too.
5 easy ways to start being a relationship legacy leader right now:
1. Learn how to recognize and label different emotions within yourself. How many can you name?
2. Learn how to recognize and label when you are HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, and tired).
3. Be curious. Curiosity goes hand in hand with empathy, understanding, and eventually better choices and decisions.
4. Use the phrase “I’m glad you told me."
5. Fess up when you mess up—every time (for the rest of your life).
I hope the five ways to start being a relationship legacy leader inspired some ideas for you. I truly hope you can visualize where you can start making some simple changes. The ideas above are simple, but powerful when implemented.
There are so many reasons why I think being a relationship legacy leader is important, and why each of us doing our part is important. Today I will just mention one—as a way to change the culture of mass shootings and school shootings we are seeing in our country and across the world.
To me, as a therapist, I see these shootings as another reason why it’s important for all of us to take care of our mental health, to destigmatize mental health care, to destigmatize discussing feelings, and to encourage teaching our young kids about emotions (especially boys—they have been hurt for too long by shaming them for having feelings besides anger).
I don’t know about you, but when I see the news of another school shooting or a mass shooting, I feel heartbroken and devastated. Sometimes I even cry. I cried when I heard the news of the shootings at the two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
This week there was a school shooting at the University of North Carolina Charlotte (6). There are likely some important legal changes that need to be made, but what can we do right now (no matter where we fall on the political spectrum)? I believe that each of us, in whatever corner of the world we are in, can start to make a difference now—even on a topic as big as school and mass shootings. How? By being a relationship legacy leader in whatever corner of the world we are in.
Psychology is all around us. Our psychological and relationship health matters. Psychology is not a "soft science;" it's a vital science for the success of the human race. Viewing psychology as a "soft science" has been a massive blind spot for us, and has led to the denial of the importance of mental health and relationship health. The good news is, we can all do something, starting right now.
In summary, you can be a relationship legacy leader by:
1. Learning how to recognize and label different emotions within yourself.
2. Learning how to recognize and label when you are HALT (hungry, angry, lonely, or tired).
3. Being curious.
4. Using the phrase "I'm glad you told me."
5. Fessing up when you mess up—every time (for the rest of your life).
So, think about what we explored today. Have a discussion with people you trust about being a relationship legacy leader. Print out the article as a guide if that's helpful. Who do you want to start impacting positively? What is one small thing you can do right now? Do it. It matters. Remember that the people who positively impacted you made a personal choice to do so.
Please share if you are thinking of implementing one of these 5 ideas or if today's blog inspired you to make some changes. Looking forward to reading your comments.
Thank you for joining me today! If this post was helpful, please hit the Facebook Like button below or share the blog on Twitter.
Talk to you next week.
All the best,
Holly L. Harrison
References and Links
(4)Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts [Kindle SDK 6.0.1 version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
(5)Brown, B. (2018). Dare to lead: Brave work. Tough conversations. Whole hearts [Kindle SDK 6.0.1 version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.
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If you are a similar to me, you might be interested how to support kids in being able to speak up with confidence and clarity. I believe that it's important for kids to feel like they have a voice in their family and in their community. It's our role to help kids find constructive and healthy ways to communicate about agreements (and disagreements). The ability to constructively communicate, and to communicate with confidence and clarity, is an essential life skill. Furthermore, I believe that communication standards and expectations in the workplace are much higher than they used to be - it's not something that as parents or teachers we can put off anymore as a "soft skill" if it's our job to do our best to prepare our children for adulthood. Beyond the importance of life skills, feeling heard and feeling like one has a voice, just makes us feel loved and part of a family that cares.
There are so many positive outcomes from encouraging healthy parent and child communication. However, I know (being a parent myself) you think of the positive situations but also the scary ones... Maybe in the future you want to know if your child is being bullied, and you want them to feel comfortable sharing what happened with you. You would hate to discover, years later, that your child hid the bullying from you or that the bullying went on for a long time. Along the same lines, you want your child to feel okay sharing if they feel uncomfortable with something (or someone), and if they were abused by someone.
In my work I help people change their own relationships, but also their relationship legacies. Encouraging healthy parent and child communication is a way to change the legacy of abusive or poor communication in one's family. You might be someone who wants to change the patterns you have seen in your own family, but you don't know where to start or would like some additional ideas. Definitely keep reading!
Ultimately, building up your child’s speaking skills and their ability to feel safe and comfortable sharing their lives, ideas, and personal feelings with you, is just simply a very healthy thing do as a parent. The possibilities are endless in which your child can use these skills now and for the rest of their lives.
A little about me and my family so you know where I am coming from. First, my family. I am married to a handsome and awesomely funny guy named Nathan (his superpower is the ability to make anyone laugh, I’m talking deep belly laugh over and over again!). We have one daughter and her name is Alex. Alex will be 4 years old in a couple months and she is super into unicorns and Blaze & the Monster Machines. About me, I am the type of person that constantly has ideas flowing through my mind about psychology, relationships, business, and life. My superpower is being able to creatively apply abstract psychology and business concepts to life. This idea of how do I encourage my own daughter to feel confident while speaking up, while at the same time utilizing healthy and constructive dialogue, has been deeply intriguing me lately. I want to share my ideas with you in case they might be useful.
17 Tips to Encourage Healthy Parent and Child Communication
1. Start young.
It’s never too early to start this. I think that the earlier you begin, the more natural this will be for the both of you.
2. Start now.
Now is the best time to begin this.
3. Start small.
Do the recommendations here, in a focused way, once a day for 1-5 minutes.
4. Notice when your child has interjected with something particularly insightful.
Amp up your awareness of when your child says or does something particularly insightful, meaningful, self-aware, or helpful. Your child may be trying to reach out with their brilliance, but if you weren't paying attention, you may have missed it! Show them you care and that you will take note.
Examples: When she notices something important in the house that was broken that maybe you were not even aware of, when she tells you a pet or a sibling needs help, when she tells you something you said or did that was hurtful, when she offers to help without being asked, when she admits to a mistake she made (all on her own) and how she is going to fix it, or when she chose to not follow bad decisions made by her friends and instead chose a better course of action for herself.
5. Notice the ordinary things.
Ordinary and regular daily things are important too. It’s vital to provide a supportive environment for your child to feel emotionally safe enough to communicate with you about all topics (the big, the small, and the ordinary).
6. Notice your child's ideas.
Be aware when your child has ideas. Ideas on just about anything! Your radar should perk up and say to you: "this might be a good time to make sure I can demonstrate good listening skills right now."
Please try to restrain your grouchy, tired, and bitter parenting voice that’s in there (you know what I’m talking about!) when your child has ideas on all sorts of things (like, "how can I turn myself into a unicorn?"). Your job is to show genuine interest in her ability to be creative, and to not shoot the ideas down right out of the gate. Now, I understand that your child could definitely have some questionable ideas, or ideas that probably won’t work based on what you know about the world. Please first demonstrate genuine interest and curiosity to her insights and then much later in the conversation you can add your insights and ideas too.
7. Notice feelings.
Notice all different kinds of feelings. Your goal is to convey: I see you. And I hear you. And I'm here for you.
Help your child describe her emotions, how her body feels, and what she feels like doing or saying when she experiences certain emotions.
8. Validate the things you notice.
Practice excellent validation skills as much as you can when you communicate with your child.
Validation is a whole topic on it’s own, but it’s showing genuine interest, care, and awareness of the other person’s thoughts and feelings. It’s great listening skills on steroids – it’s deeply understanding the message being conveyed from the other person’s perspective (even if you do not agree or you have different experiences) by saying an affirming statement, or statements, to the other party. On the receiving end of validation, it feels like “wow, this person gets me and really understands what I am going through right now.”
For example, your child is crying and says “My best friend told me my shirt was ugly.” You could say, “Your friend told you today that your shirt was ugly, and that made you really upset. That has to be hard to hear coming from someone you really care about.”
Adding validation as a regular part of your communication is harder than it sounds, and it takes a lot of practice. Also, I think that as adults it’s easy to disregard children’s ideas as trivial or not as important to the big/important things we do and think about as adults. But, here’s the thing. As adults, WE don't like to be invalidated, and WE sure appreciate when someone understands what we are going through. Kids are the same. Additionally, kids are learning if their voice is important, if they will be heard, and if you care.
Validate things, big and small, so when it comes time for your child to share something with you or the world, they feel confident in doing so.
Say how much you appreciate what she brought up and why. Convey a genuine/real why. If your child feels appreciated and knows exactly why she is appreciated, she will be many times more likely to do it again. And, who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?
Example: “I really appreciate your idea for taking turns with your brother so you both can get equal amounts of time here. I appreciate your idea because it shows me how much you care for your brother and how you want things to be equal and fair between the two of you.”
Demonstrating appreciation actually works really well with adults too. I like to implement consistent and daily appreciation when working with couples, and what I find interesting is that they are always amazed at how effective this is. It’s just too easy to get busy and distracted, and take others for granted... Or to think others just SHOULD have to do things for us (yikes, a little too much ego here!). We have to make a conscious effort to show appreciation if we want healthy relationships. Furthermore, think of how much it helps when your boss shows genuine appreciation for the hard work you have done. Compare this to a boss who didn't notice anything you did and only had harsh, critical, and unfair judgments to say. A big difference, huh?
10. Come back to it.
If you are in a rush and have a busy modern life as a parent, an important figure in that child's life, or a teacher, you may not get the chance to chat for even 2 minutes on whatever the child brought up. Validate the child, and then explain you are short on time, but you will come back later to it because it’s important to you. Keep your word.
11. Model sharing your own insights and ideas (age appropriate) to your child, and teach them good listening skills in response.
This doesn’t have to take long (especially with small children with short attention spans). However, with older children you will have opportunities for longer and more in-depth conversations. Share an idea and then as they are listening provide one constructive, non-blaming, or educational feedback statement as appropriate and applicable to the moment.
12. Model healthy and emotionally safe communication with your partner and set the bar high.
Your kids are always watching. You set the tone and the bar for your family. Your kids will determine if it’s safe or not to discuss the minor to the major topics based on years of watching you. Additionally, keep in mind that parents are the leaders of the family. What do leaders do? They dive in first and they model good behavior. I want to emphasize you don't need to be perfect here. That would actually be harmful and unproductive to pretend to be perfect! The goal is actually to have a growth mindset, a natural curiosity for how to continuously improve communication, and a willingness to apologize whenever one makes a mistake.
13. Develop your ability to act thoughtfully and rationally on information versus emotionally escalating and saying emotionally reactive statements.
This is important. Kids won’t share important topics if they think you’ll blow up at them (or not contribute to the discussion).
If you can’t be rational and thoughtful in the moment, that’s okay! Remember, just come back to it later. It’s much better to come back later with a clear head so you can avoid saying harmful or unhelpful comments that can really hurt your child. It's better to avoid saying harmful things that your child will never forget. Your child will be much more understanding if you come back later to the conversation versus experiencing a barrage of hurtful comments and emotionally reactive statements. Being emotionally reactive in the moment can also include just checking out of the conversation and not being engaged.
14. See the long-term picture; healthy parent and child communication is a life-long relationship habit.
This is not a one-time thing; it’s a forever thing. It's a way of life. You may need to do practice in order to grow your relationship muscles in this area. Be patient. You may not see the fruit of your work right away.
15. Remember that as parents, how you interact with your child forms the basis of how they expect others to treat them.
If children find that when they speak up they are heard, validated, and loved, they will expect that others will treat them the same. They will be more likely to be confident, have higher self-esteem, and feel less fear around speaking up about a variety of topics.
If children find their ideas are discounted, made fun of, or shamed, they will be much less likely to speak up, and will be more likely to expect people to hurt them or to not care. Why should they care about their voice, if no one else does?
16. Ask all sorts of questions about your child’s life with real enthusiasm.
Think outside the box with this and go beyond the typical “how was your day?” Something Nathan and I like to ask Alex is, "what was the silliest thing that happened today?" We definitely get some funny answers as you can imagine coming from a 3-year old!
Even if your child doesn’t seem too interested in answering your questions, they key is that she gets the feeling you deeply care about her and what’s going on in her life. It's still a win, even if your child doesn't offer up much in response. Maybe in that moment she doesn't feel like saying much, but I promise you, kids always notice if you genuinely care! You might find that later that night your child enthusiastically shares something really big with you. And that's why you don't ever stop asking caring questions - think about the big picture here.
17. Have fun.
Enjoy getting to know the unique, wonderful, amazing human being that is your child! That’s really what it’s all about. Relish in the wonderful and meaningful relationship you have! Life is about relationships.
How will you know if your efforts are working?
On the empathy cycle topic, I want my daughter to know I value and respect her. It is equally an expectation in our household that she shows respect to everyone - this includes people who are different from her or who she disagrees with. I know that if Alex feels respected and valued, she will be more likely to be able to show that to others. Developing healthy parent and child communication is a powerful way to nurture a high level of respect in one's family (even if we don't always agree).
For me personally, I want lines of communication to be open in my family so that hopefully we can have a healthy and close relationship that is fulfilling for all of us throughout the years. In life, we change, our kids change, and life around us changes constantly. And this can be hard. So hard. In the midst of constant change, it’s helpful and adaptive for us to find ways to encourage, model, and support good communication. This is so that not just our kids have a voice, but everyone in the family has a voice that is caring, constructive, respectful and confident.
There are lots of ideas in here for you to think about. You might bookmark this page to come back to it and review it again later as needed. I hope this blog was helpful for you and that you discovered something you can apply right away.
Thank you for taking the time to be with me today. Just by reading, thinking, and learning about these topics you are doing something really positive. It's already a step in the right direction. My wish is that something here will spark some incredible relationship changes for you now, and also for your kid's kids.
If you liked this blog post, was there an idea in here that you might try? What do you like to do in your family to encourage healthy parent and child communication? This is definitely nowhere near a cumulative list. I would love to hear your ideas - please comment below!
Like or Tweet my post if this was useful for you. I really appreciate it!
Keep a look out for my latest blogs on Thursdays. Talk to you again next week!
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Holly L. Harrison, MA, LMFT