About a month and a half ago I committed to writing about certain topics but thus far have only delivered on one of them. It’s time for another installment, so I’ll draw on a theme that’s been cropping up in my life on a regular basis recently. Some people call this synchronicity — the tendency of a topic to percolate up in our awareness time after time until we spend enough energy to adequately process it and move on.
For me, lately, the recurring topic is values. Stated differently, core values define our character, which is different from personality. It’s kind of ha ha funny ironic that my personality is one that doesn’t put a lot of energy into values-based thinking (see p. 11), but the linked measurement tool does confound feelings & values as the same category, which may not be entirely accurate in some cases (see p. 12 and the firmness of standards approach to problem solving). I suppose what this demonstrates is my clarity on my own values does not transfer to any interest in interpreting other peoples’ values. So in response to the gentle nudges life is handing me to think about values in others, I ask you, what are yours? What’s your character? But first, before you answer that, let’s take a few steps back. I promised to discuss the difference between character and personality.
Personality is the framework through which we interact with the world. It’s evident through the skills that come naturally to us vs. what we have to work a little harder at to achieve. What gives us energy and what taketh away? Standard illustration of this is introversion and extroversion. Those with stronger extroversion tendencies gain energy from interacting with people and those with stronger introversion tendencies gain energy from time alone. This isn’t to say that extroverts can’t function independently or that introverts have trouble communicating with others, although that can happen in extreme cases, but it does illustrate which behaviors are energy costs and energy givers to that particular person. As another example, just take a look at p. 15 of my Human Patterns profile and notice where adapting rates in my path to achievement. Does that mean I can’t adapt to others? Of course not. I understand why adapting to others’ requirements is important in getting myself along the path to achievement. In fact, I’ve done it so well that I’ve been rated highly on the ability to adapt on performance reviews, particularly at an organization where adaptability to change is a big part of the culture. I mean, I’m no idiot. If I’m going to get myself to a place where being adaptable isn’t a primary requirement to success, but intellect, intuition and independence are, then I have to do what’s necessary. So that’s personality– how we frame the world, what we attend to naturally, what comes easier to us. In life, we’re better off finding situations that allow us to capitalize on our personalities instead of battle them. Shoring up weaker areas through effort is good, but eventually, we should find a way to really be who we are and find people who appreciate that about us.
What about character? Character is not personality, although sometimes people will interpret a personality difference in another as a character flaw, which isn’t a very nice thing to do. No, our character is a reflection of our values. Our values are those fundamental beliefs we hold dear that are non-negotiable to us. These can derive from religious or spiritual beliefs, or just what we’ve been taught or figured out for ourselves as important to us. The golden rule of treating others as we would be like to be treated is a common one, for example. Often, we have some values that we weight more than others, so that if there’s ever a conflict between choosing one or the other, we’re able to make that decision. To help clarify this discussion, I’ll share something that came up when I was re-certifying for the Human Patterns that clarified the important difference between character and personality. My personality is a problem-solver, options seeker, careful observer, always looking to display behaviors that advance my particular agenda. As Stan put it– I always have an angle. You know, that’s true in literal terms, but I wasn’t comfortable with the negative inference “always looking for an angle” had. Yes, I look to display behaviors to advance my agenda, and that sounds bad if you then think that my agenda is 100% self-serving and founded upon selfish values. But it’s not. Moreso, it’s really important to me that we’re clear that my values are contrary to pure selfishness. My values are that it is by providing some kind of benefit to others from my experience and natural talents, that I receive benefit back from others. You know, the whole you give to get, you take you have taketh away thing. Sometimes, in order to make sure I can enhance my value in an area, it means I have to say no to things that don’t match my priorities. No is not the same as selfish, no matter what others with different agendas might try to argue. So these things I’m describing– these are some of my values. See how it’s different than personality?
Here’s another thought nugget to leave you with. Think about times where you might have a similar personality to someone else but somewhere along the line you discover a difference in values. You might feel an initial affinity to the person but later decide that you’re not so much like that person after all once you get to know them better. Or how about the opposite scenario, when you meet someone with very different personality characteristics with very similar values. At first, you may think the person communicates in a foreign language, but if you take the time to get to know them a little deeper, then you find some common values and therefore a newfound respect for this individual. Do you kind of get the difference now?
So, I ask you, what are your values?