All of us have distinct personalities, and all of us can, without knowing it, push some of our inborn characteristics to an unhealthy extreme that can wreak havoc in a marriage.
—Gary Smalley

The personality inventory you take is not like a test you fail or pass. It's more like a fingerprint that shows your tendencies. Tendencies can change, unlike fingerprints. Discovering your personality tendencies in relationships helps to show where your strengths and weaknesses exist. Each of us has these personality strengths in combinations which are variable and adjustable. They need to be brought into balance. Therefore, the goal of this session is to help you understand where you are "out of balance" in terms of your personality. We've found that our greatest personal strengths—when pushed out of balance—become our greatest weakness. For instance, let's say that your strength is that you have tremendous enthusiasm, this becomes a weakness as your enthusiasm turns into manipulation.

If a particular character trait of yours is too extreme, to the point that it irritates your mate or your children, you can decide to push that trait down and push other traits up. Let's take a closer look at the four different personality types and see what happens when our strengths are pushed out of balance:

L is for Lion

Strengths Strengths Pushed Out of Balance
Problem solver Too busy
Bold, direct communication Insensitive
Decision maker Unthoughtful of others wishes
Strong Willed Stubborn
Independent, Self-reliant Avoids people and seeking help
Action oriented, persistent Inflexible, relentless, unyielding
Likes authority Too direct or demanding
Takes charge Pushy, impatient—do it now!
Confident Cocky, overlook feelings
Enterprising Big risks
Competitive Cold blooded

What does a balanced Lion look like? Since Lions are naturally hard on problems, their greatest relational need is to add softness to their natural style to keep from being too hard on people in the process. Also, lions may need to learn that meaningful communication takes time. They need to slow down and discuss decisions with others, not simply charge ahead on their own.

O is for Otter

Strengths Strengths Pushed Out of Balance
Enthusiastic Over-bearing
Takes risks Dangerous and foolish
Visionary, inspirational Day dreamer, phony
Fun loving, infectious laughter Not serious, obnoxious
Motivator, promoter, initiator Manipulator, exaggerates, pushy
Energetic Impatient
Friendly, group oriented Shallow relationships, bored
Likes variety, enjoys change Scattered, lacks follow-through
Spontaneous Not focused enough
Enjoys creativity or new ideas Unrealistic, avoids details

What does a balanced Otter look like? One of the greatest relational needs for Otters is to be more of a follow-through person. Otters tend to make all kinds of promises and think "all things are possible," but we need to follow through with our commitments. Also Otters need to develop sensitivity to the feelings of others and weighing the consequences of our words or actions before jumping into something.

G is for Golden Retriever

Strengths Strengths Pushed Out of Balance
Sensitive feelings Easily hurt
Loyal Missed opportunities
Calm, even-keel Lacking enthusiasm
Non-demanding, patient Push-over, taken advantage of
Peace maker, hates confrontation Misses honest intimacy
Enjoys routine, dislikes change Stays in rut, not spontaneous
Warm & relational Fewer deep friends
Accomodating Too indecisive
Sympathetic, good listener Holds on to other's hurt or pain

What does a balanced Golden Retriever look like? Since Golden Retrievers have an eagerness to please others, they have a hard time saying "No." Therefore, their greatest relational need is to set limits and boundaries essential for their own well-being. Further, Retrievers need to practice confronting others. Turn your ability to feel deeply about negative things into a positive step, one where you think and act decisively.

B is for Beaver

Strengths Strengths Pushed Out of Balance
Perfectionist Too controlling
Detailed, enjoys instructions Hard time finishing; slow
Accurate, precise Too critical and too strict
Consistent, predictable No spontaneity or variety; boring
Controlled, reserved, orderly Too serious and stuffy; rigid
Practical Not adventurous
Sensitive Stubborn
Conscientious Too inflexible
Analytical Loose overview
Discerning Too negative on new opportunity

What does a balanced Beaver look like? Since Beavers teen to be extreme in their thinking, it's important for them to realize that nothing is ever as bad as it seems or as good as it appears. Stop catastrophizing. Instead, be more relaxed and let some things remain unfinished or undone. Letting go of the need to have everything exactly right is important for a Beaver. They, too, can learn to turn negatives in their life into a positive, instead of magnifying a mess all out of proportion into something really bad.

We trust you'll share this inventory with your mate, friends and your kids. By understanding your personality bent and how your weaknesses are really your strengths pushed out of balance, then you will have fewer personality conflicts down the road.

This article was originally published on the Crosswalk Careers channel in January 2008.

© Copyright 2005 Smalley Relationship Center