Perspective & Social intelligence: How Recognizing the Strengths in Others Made Us Flourish as a Family

By Marjorie Aunos
older man holding a little girl's hand on a walk

It is too easy at times to judge people’s action according to our own perspective. And sometimes, by doing so we end up hurting our most significant relationships. This is the story of my return home following rehab after I sustained a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI).

Before my accident, I had been parenting my son and living on my own for years. When I returned home, in my house, I had forgotten that my parents had been living there for 6 months, with my son. I had not considered that a routine had been established between them. I was also oblivious to the fact that my parents had to move in some of their stuff and push aside some of mine, making the house slightly disorganized and chaotic. And I had not realized that my parents had been in charge... of my house, my son, and even me. My need for support stemming from either my inexperience with my own abilities or the lack of adaptations, made it easy for them to take charge. This was hard and unbecoming. I felt like a kid again, even if I was a self-determined adult. I was getting frustrated as I couldn’t fulfill my parenting role. I felt like a failure which made me angry. This situation could have easily degenerated, but instead, we grew as a family after several conversations that led us to a mutual understanding of each other’s perspectives and where our actions stemmed from (social intelligence).

For example, when I would say, let me do it, I would often hear: ‘you take care of yourself, you have to get dressed’ or ‘it will go faster if I do it’. I saw it as them intruding and taking over, when it was coming out of Kindness (overuse). My parents were trying to be helpful.

When I would see my parents move some of my things to put theirs in, I felt discarded and disrespected. Obviously, it was not. My parents loved me. That was a given. Undeniably, a person who lets go of their life, their privacy, their house, to live in their daughter's home, to take care of her son and her affairs as she gets stronger in rehab, is a person fueled by love.

And when my mom would ‘kick me out of bed’ on days where I had no rehab to do, she did it because she was hopeful and asking me to persevere. She knew we would get past this if we continued to take steps, even if as small as getting out of bed every morning.

On the other end, I did not want to be seen as a dependent, (overuse of teamwork) and so I would try to control my environment and my parents by telling them what to do (overuse of leadership). Through our conversations, we adjusted our way of doing things and came to the conclusion that if we worked together as a family, things would get better. In addition, this process helped me feel grateful and express my appreciation for what my parents were doing for us.


  • The VIA Institute has created great tools and strategies that can help you determine if a Character Strength is overused or underused. Trainings and books are available to help you, and your clients, to learn to identify Character Strengths in yourself and others.
  • Specific strategies (Character Strength Interventions: A field guide for practitioners) my parents and I used. For example, we used Mindful listening and mindful speech (p. 107). In our conversation we tried to understand where the other was coming from, versus judging their actions. Seeing or talking about our shortcomings as an over or under use of our Character Strengths, made it easier for us to be honest. It also helped us realize that we were all trying our best. We also could have used the Character Strengths Genogram (CSI 6) or Self-Monitor your Strengths (CSI 8), or Stories and Character Strengths (CSI9) to identify and recognize our own Character Strengths.