A few weeks ago, I took the CliftonStrengths assessment as part of a year-long leadership group I’m in. Essentially, it asks you a bunch of questions and then ranks it’s 34 themes in order of dominance for your individual personality. It then gives you five signatures themes with insights designed to maximize your talents. “By focusing on your Signature Themes, separately and in combination, you can identify your talents, build them into strengths, and enjoy personal and career success through consistent, near-perfect performance.”
My top 5 were 100% accurate: Individualization, Empathy, Activator, Restorative, Responsibility
Each one had a brief, but impactful, summary that explains the quality and how it probably manifests in my day-to-day life. I won’t go into all of the details because I want to focus on the one that literally took my breath away…
“You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person’s perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person’s predicament - this would be sympathy, not Empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand. This instinctive ability to understand is powerful. You hear the unvoiced questions. You anticipate the need. Where others grapple for words, you seem to find the right words and the right tone. You help people find the right phrases to express their feelings - to themselves as well as to others. You help them give voice to their emotional life. For all these reasons other people are drawn to you.”
I felt these words something fierce. Sitting in a room of 50+ people, I felt this resonate with me on a whole new level.
I’ve always been an incredibly empathetic person and have seemed to feel more than those around me. I’ve always had the strong ability to listen to a person or a situation and to be able to put myself in their shoes and understand why they’re feeling that way, how they got in that situation, and can identify how I would feel if that was me. And man is that challenging.
I truly feel like empathy is severely lacking in our current world. Our culture as a whole seems to only identify with things they’ve personally experienced. If it challenges our belief system or view of the world, we shut down the train of thought instead of exploring it to see if we could potentially identify with it. It takes an extreme amount of courage and vulnerability to consistently explore empathy… but I’m confident it’s the way to a happier world for all.
There are a lot of things I’ve never done in my short life…
I’ve never been on food stamps or federal assistance.
I was never abused or neglected as a child.
I’ve never been homeless.
I have never been raped, sexually assaulted, or sex trafficked.
I’ve never had a miscarriage or needed an abortion.
I’ve never been food insecure.
I’m not gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgender.
I’ve never been a refugee and had to flee for my life.
I’ve never been unemployed.
I’ve never been unable to pay all my monthly bills.
I’ve never had to drop out of school.
I’ve never had my kids taken away from me.
I’ve never been verbally or physically abused by my partner.
I’ve never had my religious rights challenged.
I’ve never had a mental breakdown.
I’ve never been disabled.
I could go on and on and on. There are so many things that I’ve NEVER done or experienced in my life. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see the circumstances that would lead to those situations. It doesn’t mean that I can't “see the world through their eyes and share their perspective.” I don’t have to feel pity or condone the things others do… but that doesn’t mean I can’t be their ally. I can disagree with things without opposing them. I can empathize...and you can too.
The rest of my personality traits just reconfirmed all of this and put into words why I am the crazy person that I am. My high sense of Empathy paired with strong levels of Individualization (impatient with generalizations and looks at each person’s life stories), Activator (impatient for action; know I will be judged not by what I say or think, but by what I get done), Restorative (problem solver deluxe), and Responsibility give me a strong sense of justice and fixing broken systems. TA-DA! Holy self-insight, Batman.
Living with Moxie means being courageous in all things. It means striving to do what’s best for the community and our relationships as a whole. Sometimes that means challenging our sense of self for the greater good. And what’s more courageous than that??
So push yourself to live with EMPATHY. You don’t have to agree… you just have to be an ally.