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Using Strengths to Navigate Unfair Situations

The VIA website shares a pretty entertaining video illustrating fairness and this concept’s ability to be understood by animals, specifically monkeys. In the video, two monkeys must perform the same task (handing the researcher a rock) but they are compensated unequally. One monkey receives a piece of cucumber for her actions, an acceptable compensation; however, the other monkey receives a grape, a much more desirable payment by monkey standards. I’ll let you watch the video to see the monkeys’ reaction to unequal pay.

While the monkey video is amusing, often situations of unfairness are not as obvious as cucumber versus grape, and even if they are, reacting in a similar way to the disadvantaged monkey is usually not a very realistic option. So how should you approach situations of unfairness? How might we call on our strengths to help us navigate these difficult circumstances?

A recent conversation with some colleagues at NKU as part of the larger NKU Strong initiative, discussed just that. Below are some ideas on how to use your strengths to be an advocate for fairness:

BRAVERY: Bravery is a key strength to call upon when approaching situations of unfairness. Whether you or someone else is being treated unfairly, calling it out has the potential to create conflict. Bravery is a strength that compels you to speak up for what is right, even in the face of opposition. If someone else calls attention to a situation of unfairness, it is important to recognize the bravery they used to stand up and speak out.

PERSPECTIVE: Rarely are situations of unfairness completely black and white, so it is important to use your perspective strength to seek to understand all the points of view in the matter before coming to a judgement. Perspective is a strength that allows you to recognize and weigh multiple sides before making decisions and is crucial for navigating difficult situations.

PRUDENCE: Because unfairness is often such a serious issue, it is important to call on your strength of prudence to carefully examine the situation before taking action. Prudence is a strength that compels you to be very careful about your choices and not do or say things that you could later regret.

LOVE: Unfairness often carries with it feelings of hurt and anger. It is important to approach a situation of unfairness with the strength of love to show compassion and care to those involved. Love is a strength that can help you maintain relationships through difficulty by showing care and kindness.

FORGIVENESS: You might need to pull on your forgiveness strength after a situation of unfairness has been brought to light and remedied. It can be hard to let go of the hurt that unfairness can cause. Forgiveness is a strength that does not mean you are condoning unfair actions or even forgetting the situation occurred, but rather a strength that allows you to move forward and find peace within yourself.

While these strengths stand out as key ones to rely on, all of the 24 character strengths can be used to assist in navigating difficult situations, including ones of unfairness. What strengths do you pull on when facing unfairness? What strengths could you pull on if you realized you’ve been unfair? Tell us in the comments below!

Carly Rospert

Meet Carly Rospert

Carly joined the Mayerson Academy in July 2016 as Senior Project Manager. In her role, she provides leadership and support to innovative initiatives like Strong Cincinnati and NKU Strong.  Carly’s experience is grounded in Knowledge management, design, and organizational learning in the collective impact field. Prior to joining Mayerson Academy, she worked for StriveTogether where she built a strategy and team focused on turning quantitative and qualitative data from education reform initiatives across the country into actionable stories and tools. Carly received her undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati in Urban Planning. As a long-time tutor at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, she is passionate about the ability for education to change the lives of individuals and communities.  

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