When Personality Traits Collide: Clifton Strengths A-B

Cover of the book, Strengths Finder 2.0I’m working my way through the list of Clifton strengths alphabetically, a few strengths at a time. That way I can thoroughly process them before I move on to the next group (like the HSP introvert I am!).

Each section in Strengths Finder 2.0 begins with a long paragraph describing the feelings, mindset and behavior associated with the strength under discussion. Next comes a “how it sounds” section, with quotes from several people about their experiences with the trait. I find this section especially helpful, as the language they use is often different from the description paragraph.

Next comes “Ideas for Action,” which lists ways to work with your strength so it doesn’t drive you – or the people around you – crazy. The approach to each strength is relentlessly positive, beginning with the strategy of framing arguably neutral personality characteristics as “strengths” in the first place. However, it is obvious from reading between the lines that each type can be unhappy and/or obnoxious with a mismatched environment or companions.

This brings to mind Marianne Cantwell’s assertion that “a weakness is a strength in the wrong environment,” a reframe which is probably not original to her, but which gave me much hope when I first read it. Gallup (the organization behind the Clifton Strengths system – yes, the poll people) is upfront that their agenda is to encourage people to work with their personality rather than beating their heads against the wall trying to be what they’re not. That’s hard to argue with.

Each strength description wraps up with a few words to the wise for those who find themselves interacting with people who have that trait. Advice is given on what they will be best at, and where to adjust expectations, or allow them some latitude.

The A through B strengths are Achiever, Activator, Adaptability, Analytical, Arranger, and Belief. Achiever is the only one I read last time I had the book, and as I’ve mentioned, it resonated. This left me wondering whether I’d find the other strengths equally easy to identify with.

green & yellow traffic lightsI didn’t. Activator, for example. My preference for researching very thoroughly before acting is the opposite of the Activator “let’s do it!” approach. I’ve been in more than one situation where an Activator and I were at cross purposes, with them wanting to learn by doing, while I felt it was more efficient to look before we leaped. I will say for myself that where concrete results are at issue (in a product purchase, for example), and the information I have about goals is complete, my considered decisions do usually produce a satisfactory outcome.

Adaptability could be in my top 12, but not in my top 5. I do have a certain responsiveness to the tides of life, and make more progress towards goals I may not even be conscious of by stumbling across seemingly random events and stimuli than by planning. But I am not terribly comfortable with all of that uncertainty.

Analytical, yes, with reservations. This did not come up in my top 5 for either the Gallup or workuno tests, much to my surprise. It seems pretty certain that I am analytical with a small a, even though I don’t really see it myself. How could people not think in terms of root causes, patterns and associations? Isn’t that the very nature of thought?? Not for everyone, apparently. Hundreds of people have remarked upon my analyticalness over my lifetime, so I guess it must be true, even if I can only deduce it indirectly from how baffled I am by the non-analyticalness of others.

So why the reservations about identifying with the Analytical trait? Much as “hard working” is a defining attribute for the Achiever trait that I didn’t relate to at first, “logical” is central to Clifton’s Analytical person, but not a term I often apply to myself. I am not Spock. Maybe it’s just semantics – which is where the quotes from people who actually live with the trait can be clarifying – but as I recall there are a couple of other traits with similar definitions, so I’m reserving judgment upon which is the closest fit for me until we reach those.

Jelly candy people in several different colorsMoving on to Arranger, definitely not me! But Arrangers sound suspiciously like a type of person who would actually enjoy the job-from-hell scenario I described recently in another post. I thought for sure such beings existed only in the wishful daydreams of unrealistic employers. Which just goes to show, trait identification is useful not only for improved self-understanding, but to illuminate how truly broad is the range of personality diversity.

Belief, on the other hand, does ring a bell, and also explains how other factors than logic may prevail in my analyses. Feeling a need to act in accordance with my values often results in behavior other people (non-Believers, presumably) find extreme, particularly on the job.

For Believers, the book says, work must be meaningful, and consistent with personal values. This is also said of HSPs, which raises the question of whether the 52 “strength” traits are evenly distributed across all people, or cluster in accordance with other personality typing systems. For example, what percentage of Believers are HSPs, and vice versa?

On the other hand, a trait like Adaptability isn’t particularly consistent with descriptions of either introverts or HSPs. Does this mean there are fewer Adapters among HSPs and/or Introverts, or just a larger percentage of conflicted ones? Strengths Finder 2.0 doesn’t explore any of the wider social questions or implications of its system.

Though Belief was not one of my top 5 Clifton Strengths, it came in 4th on my workuno results. This gives the workuno test a 60% accuracy rate vs. Clifton’s 40%, assuming the 2 strengths they agreed upon in the top 5 are accurate. The workuno test was less frustrating to take, so this doesn’t surprise me, though neither percentage is impressively high! I’ll post again soon with more thoughts on the next group of traits.


For those of you wondering about my new business, the discovery that my business name contained a trademark violation took some wind out of my sails. I had to redo my domain name, website, email addresses, everything. It’s better than it was before, but I lost about a month when I couldn’t really do much promoting, which has created major financial anxiety. Also, my second client was not as perfect as my first. That experience taught me a lot, but it took a lot of energy while it was happening.
Photo of a straight empty road leading to a horizon stacked high with storm clouds
Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to stabilize my schedule in the wake of the daylight saving time change. People with SAD will know what a big deal that is. For people who don’t, it’s kind of like jet lag without going anywhere. The weather has been cloudier, and it always takes me several days of that to remember that I really need to do light therapy when it isn’t sunny if I don’t want to turn into a vegetable (or a compost heap).

Last, but not least, construction at my part-time job triggered a bout of chemical sensitivity illness, from which I am still recovering. Fortunately, my employers are very supportive, and actually agreed to move the office (since I’m the only one who works there) when I said I dreaded the impact of major remodeling planned on the building for the next couple of years. Ever since I learned about high sensory processing sensitivity, I have wondered whether HSPs are more likely to be chemically sensitive than the general population.

Although my new line of work immediately started bringing in a little money, which is a good sign that it’s a viable source of income, the amount so far is a long way from what I need to bring in to make ends meet (or even be close enough to wave to each other). I’m considering the possibility that I may have to take yet another job until I can build up a steady client base. Can I manage all of that? We’ll see.


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