To Be Fair or Kind?

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How to overcome internal conflict (and be a better stress-buster)

Conflict. Typically, we think of this as an interaction between two people, or groups of people. But conflict can also occur within a person. Ever been in “two minds” over making a decision? “Should I do this, or should I do that?” Sound familiar?

We each have a unique composition of 24 Character Strengths. These strengths fight for our attention leaving us flip-flopping between options and unable to solve the problem. We sit in our conflict and we inevitably feel stressed too. This is when our strengths clash – within ourselves.


Here’s a problem I faced with my team.


Be fair or be kind?

Let’s talk about Fairness and Kindness. I often struggle when these two strengths come forward and split my mind over the next action I should take. I had a team member who was hardworking and loyal. A solid performer. She had started coming to work late, then sometimes not showing up and only contacting us mid-morning. Her mood had flattened, but then I also saw some unusual outbursts of laughter at very inappropriate times. She was simply not the team member I know and love and her contribution to the team was lowering every week. I had approached her a couple of times to offer an ear, to find out if there was anything going on that I could assist with. I was shut down every time. When I listened to my strength of Fairness, it was telling me to take action to put a stop to this behaviour, her mood was impacting the team. In a negative way. I wanted to protect our team culture – this was only fair to everyone else. But how could I do that when she wouldn’t open up to me?

When I tuned into my strength of Kindness, it was encouraging me to show more compassion, give her more time. Cut her some slack. But Fairness wanted to put a quick end to this negative behaviour that was impacting the team. I was torn over what to do next.

Wrestling with my own two points of view, I realised I was at an impasse because my strengths of Fairness and Kindness were clashing and I couldn’t make a decision.


Strength Spotting

Remembering that strength spotting overcomes strengths that clash, I did some strength spotting of my own. I tapped into one of my Top 5 Signature Strengths – Judgement. Using this strength, I could take a step back and consider the bigger picture to put this situation into perspective. This strength is where one considers all information before making a decision. For long-term and lasting gain, I had to offer assistance to help my team member through whatever she was experiencing. If she could overcome it, then it was likely I would get the value from her again. We talked and I made it clear that things needed to change, so we agreed upon external support through our employee assistance program.


Just as we do strength spotting in our teams, it’s also helpful to exercise strength spotting on ourselves when our strengths clash. If you are struggling to make a decision, take look at your strengths profile, and bring forward another strength to help overcome the hurdle. You can resolve those clashing strengths by letting go of the dilemma and drawing from another strength to help you through. Not only will you overcome your conflict, strength spotting also helps to Build Resilience. And confidence.

Be a better stress buster

Resilience and confidence help us to better cope with the natural stressors in our jobs and in our lives. We can build these traits by getting to know our strengths, and then using them at every opportunity. This might sound like hard work, but honestly, it’s not. Our strengths are the things we do with minimal effort and the bonus is they have the biggest impact to the environment we use them in.

Here’s the good news. The more you practice strength spotting, the more capable you become at solving problems and making decisions. Guess what that means?

You are better able to deal with stress.

Here’s a recap:

 Feeling conflicted?

Identify which of your strengths are clashing

Do some strength spotting to find another strength and apply it

Take action

Reflect and be proud that you handled the issue

Smile because you solved it.

You’ve got this.


To learn about how Strengths Spotting can build a Trusted Team, click here to take a look at our team workshop.

About the author:  Nicole is an organisational psychologist who believes that when people understand their strengths, capabilities and motivators, they can unleash all their brilliance to perform at the highest level and create high performing teams.  Nicole is an integral part of the Farran Street Education facilitation team, and currently facilitates team workshops including Understanding Yourself and Others and The Trusted Team.