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Are some Strengths more Sensitive than Others?

Updated: Mar 22


I was sent an article recently on sensitivity and the idea of what happens when we suppress our emotion. This had me thinking about whether some Strengths may be more sensitive than others, all Strengths have emotion after all, as each of the 34 CliftonStrength® talent patterns measure how we think, FEEL, and behave. So what came to mind was the idea that all Strengths can, and will, go into underuse or overdrive at some point, and its important for us all to recognise that a Strength has to be an energy asset for self and others, otherwise it becomes a motivational deficit, where it serves neither self or others, a state that is ultimately unsustainable over the long term. I guess this is what the article on reframing emotions as strengths was ultimately leading to and I encourage you to read it in full.

The challenge is, we live in a world where emotions are often seen as a sign of weaknesses, something to be suppressed and hidden away. Its the same with vulnerability, and yet believing we are strong, by being stoic and unfeeling, we reduce our ability to be sensitive in its totality. As Brenè Brown mentions in her book Daring Greatly, it’s impossible to cut off pieces of our emotions, without ultimately shutting down our emotions in their entirety, including our ability to love and show compassion, an absolute recipe for disaster in any relationships.

Interdependent Rules of Engagement on the other hand is the idea of bringing one’s Strengths in equilibrium, seeking first to understand, and entering into all situations to value a conscious intentional approach of understanding one’s impact on self, others, and the environment at large. For instance, it doesn’t help to always be the one in a relationship doing everything, because inadvertently, you are denying the other the opportunity to bring what they are naturally good at, and adding their Strengths to the equation. This denying can lead to suppression of the other, and resentment results, ultimately leading to conflict, often without us even realising what is at the root of the unhappiness, after thinking we were doing someone a service. What is important, and why Strength and Interdependence are mutually inclusive, is bringing our Strengths as an energy asset for self and others, where we can fully embrace and embody who we and others are without judgement, and where we we become united in cultivating a curiosity that allows us to value the uniqueness of each other.

So what does a Strength look like when we are denying the emotion that goes with it?

Our emotions are a fundamental part of what makes us human. They allow us to connect with others, experience joy and love, and motivate us to create change in the world. By denying our emotions, we deny a vital aspect of ourselves. What comes to mind as an example is the Strength of Command. It’s way of think, feeling, and behaving can often come across as forceful and sometimes as anger, for example, this often viewed as negative emotion. Yet it can also be a powerful motivator as people with the Strength of Command stand up for others by nature. What can be so bad about that? It is a Strength that when used correctly can be used to drive the fight against injustice, to speak out against oppression, and to stand up for what is right. When we reframe the anger and force of character as a Strength, it can be used to fuel a passion for change with a drive towards creating a better world.

Similarly, someone with the Strength of Empathy feels deeply for the world. When this Strength goes into overdrive, it can soak up emotion like a sponge which can pull even the strongest person into an abyss of sorrow, and this is perhaps why sadness is often seen as a weakness. Yet when the Strength of Empathy is used well, it can also be a source of power, because allowing and feeling the emotion, and giving ourselves permission to feel sadness, we open ourselves up to the ability to share and feel compassion for others. We become more attuned to the suffering of those around us, and we are more motivated to help them. When we reframe sadness as a strength, we can use it to deepen our connections with others and to create a more empathetic and caring world. This is what Empathy looks like in interdependence - an energy asset for self and others.

Reframing our emotions through a better understanding of our Strengths can be challenging, especially when we have been taught to see them as weaknesses. It requires us to challenge our biases and preconceived notions of the judgements we have faced in a world of deficit thinking, and to embrace vulnerability. However, when we are able to do so, we can tap into the power of our emotions and use them to create positive change in the world - bringing our Strengths in service of self, others, and the environment at large. So, let us embrace our emotions and use them to create a better tomorrow.

Remember, our emotions when suppressed becomes unsustainable because as the article on Why Your Sensitivity Is Really a Strength points out, suppression can manifest in a whole host of undesirable behaviours. A better choice is not to see emotions as weaknesses, but rather as postive attributes which, when combined with great use of our Strengths, can be used to positively impact the world. By reframing our emotions and bringing our Strengths in equilibrium, we can tap into their power and use them to fuel our passions, deepen our connections with others, and create a more relational world. After all, everything swims in the waters of relationships.

Sam McDonald has been married for 30 yeas and has four children. They are a Strength-based family, using the CliftonStrengths® to enhance marriage & family life. Their home is in Hampton Court, UK and the FalseBay Coast, Cape, SA. She is a Futurist and Chief Visionary Officer for WITH-HUMANITY, a change-maker with a dream to disrupt our current meritocracy by "Unlocking the IntrinsicIdentity © of all Individuals in service of greater human engagement" creating an all inclusive universal value metric and social system.

She is a Normative Visionary, Systems Thinker, Disruptor, Change-Maker & Activist. Graduating Cum Laude with an MPhil in Futures Studies from the University of Stellenbosch, after failing matric, she believes matching one's intrinsic wiring to how we learn yields exponential results, leap-frogging our current education system. She influences thinking in order to create futures-led enquiry & change towards a future we all want to be part of - linking strategic leadership and management with futures thinking. Her use of Interdependent Rules of Engagement© and the CliftonStrength® Assessment, as well as various Foresight Methodologies, are tools of choice to influence mindset change, and help people understand each other's unique world views, which are coloured by what she terms our Strengths Language.

She moved to South Africa in 1983 from Nottingham, UK and has lived in both dysfunction and functional environments. These she views as her "cross to bear is your gift to share" - serving as a bridge in understanding how to create function out of chaos.

She and her fellow Coaches, work with motivated clients using the CliftonStrength® Assessment as a power tool for:

  • Strength Based Interviewing & Recruitment

  • Assisting motivated individuals to fall in love with their careers and find the work they were born to do.

  • Working with high achievers to discover their value and purpose

  • Working with Start-ups to gain momentum, motivation & self-awareness of the Entrepreneur

  • Assisting Students to gain a greater self-awareness, expediting their career path, building confidence and self-esteem.

  • Working with individuals to re-engage in their work environments & leveraging their strengths

  • Working with marriage relationships to help you love again and understand the toxicity, reduce negative experiences, create understanding and, in turn, assist with long-term strategies for lasting transformation

  • Finding your true Purpose, Passion and Value in Life

  • Falling in love with your life and work again

  • She teaches the 'Interdependent Rules of Engagement© & Vulnerability' to focus on living 'Interdependence' as the key to healthier environments - choosing this as 'rules of engagement' over 'Dependence', 'Co-Dependence' & 'Independence'.

Follow the link if you would like to take the Strengths Assessment and here to read more about how to discover who you are at your core.

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