When we assess someone, it is often in the form of his or her strengths and weaknesses. This is usually how we decide if somebody has a strong rapport with us. If we see more of someone’s strengths than his or her weaknesses, we will like the person more. And if that person has less desirable attributes, we like the person less. More often than not, our perception is often biased.
Let’s take a look at an example. John is a very outgoing individual who will spend time out with his friends whenever opportunities arise. One day, he meets Tom, a very introverted boy who’d rather spend his time studying at home while penning self-reflection journals. Within a few minutes of meeting Tom, John will already have a gut feeling that he’s not going to get on well with Tom. Why is that? Well, this is because Tom does not hang out often with his friends, which means that he will probably not hang out with John very often. If Tom were to use the same criteria to assess John, he will probably feel the same way.
As can be observed, we all use our own set of criteria to assess people. And as a result, we form our own biases. When this happens, we end up with similar group of people who share our interests and hobbies while ostracising the rest. Hence the saying that “people prefer people who are like them”. While there is nothing wrong with building a strong rapport with people who share the same interests, individuals who do this are losing a large group of people who could be their friends because of a difference in personality.
If we are to look at how individuals function at a deeper level, we will realise that what appears as differences in personalities and temperaments are actually two sides of the same coin. And if we are to look closely, we actually have the choice over what we see. If heads stand for “strength” and tails for “weakness”, we can actually see two heads or two tails. The technique here is to try seeing two heads of a coin all the time.
Every weakness or flaw of others perceived by us can be a strength. Let’s consider the following:
- Talkative: An individual who converses very frequently with a large number of people on different topics are considered by some of us as irritating. However, such individuals are able to pass information through informal channels very quickly and are often known to be someone to look for when one needs information. In addition, he may be someone who is able to contribute interesting ideas during team discussion and are likely to be the person to bring any discussion to life. Talkative? Think gregarious.
- Too Quiet: Quiet individuals are usually deep thinkers. Like introverts, their thinking processes are processed internally rather than spoken out (like the extroverts). More often than not, they are fast thinkers who easily generate several responses in their head, considering all alternative responses before responding when they have found the reply. And throughout this whole process, they are often perceived by others as not listening, which is not true at all. In fact, they are strong observers and tactful communicators.
- Impatient: People usually steer clear of individuals who are impatient. This is not an advisable things to do since their impatience often has more to do with the matters at hand than anything personal. Impatient individuals are usually quick workers who like to get things done in a speedy manner. Hence, they are often high achievers accomplishing more things than others. As long as there is mutual understanding established between their team mates and themselves, they can be very powerful motivators and team players too.
- Chaotic: Some individuals are considered chaotic both in their manner of organisation and their style of communication, where they are often seen as rebellious and rowdy. In the classroom, such individuals are often noted by their teacher and often are among the first few students to face punishments for defying school rules and regulations. In the workplace, some employers might also not take to their proclivity to ignore the corporate hierarchical structure. However, such individuals are often innovators and creators of new concepts. In fact, they may be the individuals who are able to forge the path towards change for the greater good with strategic paradigm shifts. Some creatives also belong to this category. In recent years, there’s a demand for such individuals since the economy now requires more individualists than conformists. Chaotic? Think visionary.
- Opinionated: It has been said that opinionated individuals are not good team players as they tend to be self-obsessed with their own line of thoughts, leaving almost no space to consider the perception of others. While this may be true, it is hard to argue that they are often strong debaters and should their mindset be correct, are valuable individuals who are able to carve out a strategic direction for an organisation. Within the context of a classroom, it is not hard to imagine such an individual providing a convincing piece of persuasive dialogue to his team mates. It remains to be seen if his or her team mates will be convinced by his spiel but one thing is for sure: this individual makes for a strong salesperson and powerful negotiator, a quality highly demanded in the workplace.
Therefore, if we focus on the strengths of others while possessing the ability to see their weaknesses as strengths, our social circle will definitely increase together with our communication abilities.
And along the way, we will realise that everybody is able to teach us something. However, that is only if we allow them to.