Personality traits can be positive AND negative

Personality traits can be positive AND negative


Many years ago, I had a supervisor who knew me well and who described me as ‘thorough’ and ‘conscientious’. She always spoke of this in a positive light, like she knew she could rely on me to get stuff done. 


Later on in my career, I had a line manager who described me as ‘anal’ and ‘perfectionistic’ in a negative light. This was someone who had a fly-by-the-seat-of her-pants approach, which didn’t gel with being methodical. Both of these people described the same trait in me, just differently.

Any trait can be a double-edged sword: In some contexts, it can be a strength, and in others, a weakness. For example, being kind to others is great when you work with people all day long; but when you go home to a cruel partner, being kind just means your own needs are shoved to the side. And even aside from context and the double-edged sword analogy, the language used to describe any trait can make it into a positive or a negative; for example, ‘Anal’ vs ‘Thorough’.

Further examples:

      • Nice can be kind (positive) or passive/unassertive (negative)
      • Strong-willed can be persistent (positive) or stubborn (negative)
      • Sensitive can be caring/empathic (positive) or easily upset (negative)
      • Honest can be communicative/trustworthy (positive) or insensitive/brutal (negative)
      • Loyal can be devoted/faithful (positive) or tolerates bad behaviour from others (negative)

Have you ever reflected on how you describe your traits? And does this description make them into a positive or a negative?

How could this trait be a strength in some contexts?

How could this trait be a negative in some contexts?

Could you re-word your description so that it is more helpful?

These subtle language shifts in self-description and description of others can create flexibility and kindness- which we all need as women.

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