Friday, December 2, 2022

Empathy, My A**

Oh, look, I'm back for day two of Holidailies and I've had sleep AND a bunch of tea, so I'm not just giving away exclamation points today — no, you have to earn them.

(Rereading that sentence, I have no idea what that means. Perhaps I am a little overly caffeinated? Just roll with it.)

The topic of the day is Clifton Strengths; specifically, my top five.

What are the Clifton Strengths?

That's a trick question because I think they're actually the Gallup Strengths now. But anyhow, there are 37 personality traits (aka, strengths). You take a quiz and at the end of it, you have the trait list in the order that you have them, from strongest to weakest. The idea behind it all is that you should lean into your strengths instead of trying to follow a process that depends on your weakest traits.

They also clump the strengths into four categories (executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking).

Is this just astrology with a gilding of pseudoscience?

I mean... maybe, a little? But also, it's not like any one strength is better than any other. And I know I, a person who lives alone in my house with three cats, am definitely stronger at analyzing things (aka, strategic thinking) than relationship building.

So there may be a bit of woowoo in this, but there are also some practical tips for each strength that can help people juice it up.

Who uses this?

I'm guessing big companies, because they love to spend money on shit like this instead of just getting rid of half the management and giving people higher salaries.

But also, writers. Becca Syme has built an empire out of this. Her courses have become so popular in indie writing circles that there's a drinking game involving writing podcasts mentioning Clifton Strengths. Listening to any two podcasts in a row would probably send me to the hospital.

Can this be used for evil?

Probably. After all, big companies use it. That's a sign.

Go ahead, list your top 5 for people to skip over:

  1. Empathy (???)
  2. Intellection (introspective, need time to think about stuff)
  3. Maximizer (like taking good to great instead of meh to good)
  4. Learner (the process of learning, not the outcome, is the goal)
  5. Self-Assurance (feel confident in their ability to take risks and manage their own lives)

What the hell is "empathy" doing at the top spot?

Right? But apparently being able to sense people's bad moods makes you score high in empathy even if all you do is turn around and leave.

Have all high learner people amassed as many useless degrees?

I don't know, but I bet most of the people with engineering and veterinary degrees probably have learner in the top 10 because there's no other way to explain it.

Is high self-assurance why you make such a terrible employee?

Almost certainly. I hate having other people tell me what to do.

What useful writing tips are there for your top 5?

I'm currently getting the most out of the intellection stuff. Instead of always listening to podcasts or audiobooks when I'm walking the dog, now I listen to silence or ambient music so I can think about what happens next in whatever I'm writing. And instead of waking up by checking my email, I think about what I'm going to write next.

I also had a book recommendation: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland which I'll be looking into this month. (I started reading it at the beginning of November, but I couldn't do NaNoWriMo and the exercises in the book at the same time.)

Seriously, though, empathy?

Yeah, whatever.

Obligatory Photo

This is the super friendly cat that lives by the park I pass on my walk. He loves people. He loves dogs. He loves everything. I had a hard time taking a photo because he wanted to rub all over me. He has an excessive number of toes.

A green-eyed orange cat with lots of toes


jenmoon said...

Yeah, this is the kind of thing my work did because the big boss felt obligated to come up with something to do at the work retreat. I came out with Maximizer at the top, which was depressing because this place doesn't really want to improve anything (I mean the overall company rather than my office, which perennially has its hands tied on making any changes). Blech.

It's mildly entertaining, but then you don't do anything with it, and my strengths aren't what are wanted in the workplace.

Richard Crawford said...

I remember finding my five strengths at the University, and I honestly don't remember what they were. Fat lot of good that did me. I think "Intellectuation" or whatever was on that list, as was Learning. Similar to you, though Empathy wasn't there. Or if it was, it wasn't the top. I ought to look it up.

I don't trust these things.

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

@jenmoon - I can see knowing the strengths being helpful when setting up a new team from a wide pool of possibilities, but unless you can shuffle people around, I don't see how it helps. Maaaybe it would be useful with a manager who could modify their style for each person, but a good manager would do that anyhow and a bad one won't be able to.
I don't know what the heck to do with maximizer either.

@Richard - I definitely don't trust them if someone else is imposing it. Doing it for myself... I get to pick and choose to find things that help me. That's more useful.

KarenD said...

I've been retired since mid-2015, and I'm still annoyed that I was made to sit in a conference room for a day while my some of my coworkers and I were sorted into groups by what shape our project management styles were. I think I was a triangle? I'm sure I never used that information again.

(Doing Holidailies at

Theresa B (of Nebulopathy) said...

@KarenD - Ha! It's all so ridiculous when they hire consultants to come in and mess around for a day and then leave. Nobody ever benefits!

One of my managers went off to a seminar and when she came back we all had to take personality tests (I think it was based on Meyers-Briggs) and then we made fun of her for the next month. That's the most useful any of the corporate ones were for me.