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28 Nov 2011

Apologies & Our Personality Differences

We know each of us is different; however, the degree of difference is clearly underestimated. We experience this whenever we exclaim we cannot understand why someone does something, whenever anyone gets thrilled or appalled over something we don’t. I once worked with a sales manager who found it incomprehensible that a sales person wasn’t motivated by money.

As an example of how different we can be, I posted a while back that the ability to praise was a function of personality. This is an easy, enjoyable event for some and quite an arduous for others. In the November/December 2011 issue of Scientific American Mind, I found another example of our vast differences when I read Lauren F. Friedman’s article, “I’m Not Sorry”, citing the work,  The Disposition to Apologize, of Andrew Howell and his colleagues at Grant MacEwan University. As examples, Friedman mentions some people who have difficult apologizing. Those who possess:

  • A low degree of compassion and agreeability
  • Low self-esteem
  • An overly grand view of themselves (very egocentric)
  • A strong sense of justice

The point is that we can approach any human attribute – praising, apologizing, intelligence, athleticism, dedication, nurturing, courage, trustworthiness, relentlessness, sensitivity or any countless others – the same way: each having a myriad of variations and intensities across all humans. For instance, we know there is a difference between men and women, but “How big is that difference?” I often suggest to people that they imagine differences between any two people to be ten times greater than they think they are.

Again, this shows up when we can’t fathom why someone would think or do something and when we believe their “cure” is quite simple: “Just do what I do!” Both are signs of greatly under appreciating how different we are.


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