Know Thyself III

Character Strengths and the 5 Love Languages

If you haven’t read the previous posts: in the first version of Know Thyself I spent a lot of time talking about the tools that Bill Burnett and Dave Evans gave us in Designing Your Life.  I used one of those tools to place my You Are Here pin and truly answer the question of: How You Doing?  In the second installment I went deep on Myers-Briggs.  I talked about the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  I used my own personality profile as an example.  I also briefly looked at the Satisfaction with Life Scale to get a sense of baseline happiness.

In this post I’m going to dig in to the softer side.  I’m going to start by looking at character strengths and finish with an analysis of the 5 love languages.  There are a ton of character strength options out there.  I’ve heard nothing but good things about StrengthsFinder but I’m sticking with options that you can start looking at for free.  That led me to Character Strengths and Virtues, also known as CSV.  CSV was a book written by Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman in which they provide a framework that allows for practical applications for positive psychology.

Character Strengths and Virtues

Positive psychology was introduced as an academic middle finger in reaction to the old standbys of psycho-analysis and behaviorism.  Those disciplines focus heavily on mental illness and negative thinking.  Seligman had enough of this limited approach.  What do you want, he was a New Yorker.  Earlier in his career, after many years of study on depression he theorized that, with the right stimuli, humans and animals can be conditioned into a state of learned helplessness.  He backed this up with a fair amount of experimentation.  In this definition, learned helplessness meant that a human or animal could be conditioned to behave helplessly in a particular situation – after experiencing some inability to avoid an adverse situation – even when it actually had the power to change its unpleasant or harmful situation.  One can only assume that this research weighed heavily in his desire to create a positive counterpart to all of the negatives associated with psycho-analysis.  Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, CSV focuses on what can go right.

Interesting sidebar on learned helplessness.  Some assholes in the government jumped on the theory and used it as one of the pillars of our ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’.  This became one of the fun ways that we tortured folks down in Guantanamo.  Seligman was horrified that his theory was used in such a reprehensible way.

The Cliff Notes on CSV start with the identification of six core virtues.  The core virtues are made up of twenty-four measurable character strengths.  Here’s the list:

  • Wisdom and knowledge: creativity, curiosity, innovation, love of learning, open-mindedness, perspective
  • Courage: bravery, integrity, persistence, vitality, zest
  • Humanity: kindness, love, social intelligence
  • Justice: citizenship, fairness, leadership
  • Temperance: forgiveness and mercy, humility, prudence, self-control
  • Transcendence: appreciation of beauty and excellence, gratitude, hope, humor, spirituality

I used the test from The VIA Institute on Character which turned the CSV framework into a forced choice questionnaire devised to illuminate what your core strengths are.  While core strengths do not directly equal core values, they are tightly coupled.  This becomes an important step in discovering what those core values are.  Here are my results:


After paying for the more detailed report here is a slightly more in-depth breakdown:


You can see that the VIA Institute slightly tweaked some of the terms.  For example, integrity became honesty.  For the most part they stayed pretty close to the academic representation of CSV.

5 Love Languages

5-Love-LanguagesThe Five Love Languages comes from a book of the same name by Gary Chapman.  Chapman doesn’t have a psychology background.  He comes from a religion / philosophy and anthropology foundation of learning.  Maybe that means he believes in dinosaurs wearing saddles?  I’d like to believe not.

He preaches more of a pop psychology on the radio.  That doesn’t make his theories any less interesting.  He has clearly worked with a ton of people to develop the theories and that alone hints at some level of scientific method.  I doubt there were a whole lot of double blind studies in his work but it still seems to resonate with a large percent of the population.

His theory is that we discover our love languages by observing how we express love to others.  We can analyze the things that we complain about most often in our partners as a good indicator of what we are looking for in love.  In his theory, people tend to naturally give love in the same way that they prefer to receive it.  When we understand how we wish to receive love and how our partners wish to receive love, communication goes waaay up.  Better communication gives us a much better chance at a strong relationship.  Makes sense to me. turned this into another forced choice questionnaire.  Here are my results:


My wife is taking the same test.  I’m not going to share her results here but when we look at the two together it becomes clear where a lot of conflicts can arise.  Defining our core values from our core strengths will provide us with the lines we will not cross when building our plan.  Our conflicts in the 5 love languages becomes another vector for our personal development plan.

There may be one final Know Thyself post that covers all of the methodologies that we decided not to use in our Know Thyself analysis and why.