Know Your Strengths, Vulnerabilities, and Triggers

This behavior is lodged within the competency of “Manage Self” because it is our role to manage ourselves in the midst of our strengths, vulnerabilities, and triggers. We do not have control over anyone but ourselves. And while there is time and place to speak up against injustice or inappropriate behavior, each of us must learn to manage ourselves so that we can be our best self when others do not treat us how we would prefer. Let’s look at each of these more closely.

Many of us are used to identifying our strengths. These are often seen as the things that set us apart from others, either in ability, gifting, or temperament, and help to establish our aptitude toward a particular role within an organization or group. When working with adaptive challenges, we must learn to name and leverage these strengths for the common good.

I appreciate that KLC chose to use the word vulnerabilities here instead of weakness, as we might expect. It’s less about what we’re not good at and more about the areas in which we are more susceptible to injury. Whether it be past pain or current struggle, each of us brings our own vulnerability to the table. This does not mean that we’re weak, and often acknowledging and sharing these can be a sign of great strength. Regardless, we need to be aware of these, especially in group settings so that we can create clear boundaries for ourselves.

Triggers are kind of similar to vulnerabilities, except that the reaction is often visceral and debilitating. When we are triggered by a words or actions our “fight or flight” responses are activated. Regardless of the content of our reaction, we cannot make progress in this state because our logical brain has been hijacked by base instincts to protect ourselves. These instincts are not bad, they are there for a reason, but they can hinder the process.

In order to manage ourselves well, we need to be aware and plan for what will happen when people bump into our vulnerabilities and trigger us. Both Jesus and James challenge us to be mindful and intentional about what comes out of our mouths (Mark 7:20 and James 3). Especially when triggered, we must learn to embody self-control. That doesn’t mean that we allow ourselves to be tread upon, but rather that we train ourselves to respond well (and perhaps vent, cry, shout, or pound on the table with a safe and trusted confidant or two).

My personal challenge has been to plan ahead for being triggered, to decide in advance how I will react or calm myself, so that I do not contribute to the disfunction through inappropriate actions. For me, this means having a script in my head for what I will say only to myself, what I will say in the moment, and what I will (and will not) say to others after the fact. This has helped me to remain centered in light of my own strengths, vulnerabilities, and triggers.

--Clayton Gladish