What people with strong personalities need to understand

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If you have a strong personality, you don’t have to change (and really, you can’t change). You do need to recognize how others perceive you, and perhaps adopt more moderately adjusted behaviors - especially when dating.

Highlights from the article

It is not a great secret that some people are easier to “get,” insofar as more people find it simple to understand their personality. By contrast, some people complain that they are often misunderstood because they have a more unusual or complex personality. 

For those who have a personality that many find difficult to relate to, it can be frustrating. It is not pleasant being misunderstood, and it can be tiresome having to continually clear up misconceptions. Still, there is not a huge amount you can do, as you cannot change your personality. Nor should you try. 

Here is the good news: those types of people are generally not disadvantaged when it comes to dating. While in public or at work, this can be a real challenge, it poses no real obstacle in romantic relationships. This is because during a date we have plenty of time to get to know each other and to establish who we are on our own terms. Regardless of your personality, you have every chance of meeting someone who is okay with it. You should not worry about personality; it is who you are. 

How our personality may show up on a date.

However, some of us have a personality that drives us to behave in particular ways that are unhelpful for dating success. The behaviors to which I refer are mostly unintentional, and almost certainly the people behaving this way are unaware of the way it feels on the other side of the table. This could be, for example, someone who is introverted and quiet, who induces stress in the other person because they don’t know how to manage their personality in a dating situation. There are quite a few personality types who act in ways that make things more difficult. Again, it is not about their personality, but the way the person acts and how that makes their date feel. This article – as the title indicates – is going to focus on one such type of personality – the strong character. We will look at other personality types in separate articles.

As has already been emphasized, being a strong character in no way disadvantages a person in dating, but it can sometimes produce a dynamic that is a problem. People with a powerful personality are highly attractive to many people. They come across as confident and dynamic, they are often interesting and energetic. This can exude a magnetic pull, as many are drawn to people who “know what they are doing,” and are “willing to get out there.” In fact, at the beginning of the dating process, meeting someone with a robust disposition can be extremely exciting. However, whatever the initial enthusiasm may be, many people begin to feel suffocated by what they feel is an overbearing and imposing will. They start to feel squashed and marginalized. It is great to be with someone who knows their mind, but it starts to wear thin when they come across as overly intense. Their date is a “mile a minute” and they do not get time to think. In a wide variety of subtle ways, the strong-minded person projects the impression that they always know best. They can sometimes give the impression that they consider their ideas far more interesting or relevant than other people’s. This is usually untrue. But, because they deliver their views with heightened conviction, it can feel that way.

Many are baffled that people respond to them in ways that so radically contradict their own self-perception. They see themselves as humble and empowering, and would likely find it offensive that someone would “accuse” them of anything different. But here is the point: no one is accusing and there is no blame. We are talking about perception; how other people may experience them. I saw a cartoon where the man is portrayed as saying, “But enough about me, let’s talk about my job”, or the cartoon in which one says to the other “But, Darling, why don’t you just read my blog like everyone else?” These are obviously caricatures, but they do represent something in the real world. 

The problem here is that the people who are most affected by this are the ones who because of their personality find others backing away. This is a real shame. I believe unreservedly that in the overwhelming majority of cases these people are not arrogant or aggressive, nor are they truly domineering or over-opinionated. But that does not help if that is how people view it.

Expectations for men and women.

Now, I am about to write something that may get me into serious hot water with some people. So, a word of introduction. Yours truly has spent many years dealing with people dating for marriage, as well as conducting years of study and research into such matters. What follows is not being said flippantly, but is the product of significant experience and considered reflection. In our society, there are certain established gender expectations. As we know, they are fluid. Not everyone fits into them. But it would be naïve not to acknowledge that when it comes to dating there are quite a number of differences between men and women, and how each is expected to behave and how they will expect to be treated. 

As a general rule – with many exceptions, granted – men are expected to take the lead and want to take the lead. Once the dating progresses to advanced stages, those roles fade away and the couple figures out a balance that they are comfortable with. But in the early stages, before a close bond has formed, these gender expectations play a meaningful role. If you have not stormed off in protest, here is my point.

How strong-minded women are perceived on a date.

Strong-minded and highly capable women have often not considered that the men they meet may find them a little overwhelming. They may struggle to get a word in edgewise. Realistically, it is going to be rather more subtle. A general sense is conveyed that the pace is quick, and that he will feel under pressure to respond at a rate that does not feel natural to him. If he takes his normal time thinking the matter through in order to formulate an answer or a comment he feels comfortable with, she may jump in and make her own comment. Instead of being patient and allowing him to function in his own way, she “curbs his style” and inadvertently makes him feel inadequate. Recently, one female CEO complained that all the men she meets “seem one-dimensional”. It only took a few moments of discussion for her to realize that with that attitude that is probably exactly how they felt!

I will not go into detail here as to why men may feel particularly challenged by this kind of style but suffice it to say that men with similarly strong personalities will feel they have too much competition and are quite likely to back away. Quieter, more introverted men are going to have a much easier time with a more dominant woman, but ironically many strong-willed women are quite dismissive of such men. It is a classic catch-22. The men they may prefer are those who they feel can match them in strength of character. They have told me they do not want to be with a guy they feel “cannot hold his own.” 

What they do not understand is that such individuals are going to struggle to establish their own place in the face of someone who takes up so much space herself. Again, I am not making a moral statement; this is just how it is. Women especially complain that men are initially interested, but then withdraw. They, of course, have no idea why. In some cases, they are deliberately seeking to date stronger characters, as explained, and this sets up the issue we have been describing.

As has been strongly emphasized throughout, it is the way certain personalities allow themselves to come across that can pose difficulties, not the personality per se. So, anyone who relates somewhat to this issue needs to understand that they need not change as a person – nor can they. However, they can increase their self-awareness and adopt moderately adjusted behaviors that have exactly the kind of effect they are looking for. 

What strong-minded people can do differently on a date.

People with a strong personality can make a point of giving their date adequate time to think through their answers. They can take extra caution not to interrupt, or be overly forceful when expressing opinions. They can also consider whether there is wisdom in wanting to date another strong personality. This is not out of the question, but it certainly is debatable. People who come across in a more dominant way can take simple steps to ensure that their date feels listened to and validated. Make a point of acknowledging their views, and avoid saying things that may come across as over-opinionated. Your date will still see and experience your strong personality, but without feeling asphyxiated!

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