The other day, I opened my inbox and saw an email from an acquaintance. Her request was somewhat simple: She wanted to know if I could introduce her to one of my connections, as she was hoping to pick up some freelance work with that particular outlet.
I gave her message some thought, and then decided I’d wait a while to respond. After all, I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to move forward, and I’m never one to overpromise and under deliver.
Less than 24 hours later, another email arrived from her. To my surprise, she was already following up to see if I had received her first message. She was just trying to “stay on the radar,” as she explained. But, despite her attempts to clarify her reasoning for the prompt second email, I was pretty put off. Her follow-up seemed abrupt and pushy, and it immediately made me not want to help her.
However, when I took some time to consider the situation, I really couldn’t fault her. This was obviously something that she really wanted, and she was going to do her very best to lock it down. In her mind, she was only being driven and persistent—not pesky and demanding as I saw her. In fact, I could think of numerous times I had done this exact same thing to other people, thinking I was being ambitious instead of obnoxious.
It’s human nature—we all perceive behaviors and personality traits differently depending on the exact lens we’re looking through. And, a situation can look totally different when you take a few minutes to plop yourself down behind another person’s pair of glasses.
But, beyond that, this shift in perspective made me realize something important: There are plenty of personality traits out there that are actually quite commendable, but can also often run off the rails into totally crazy territory. Here are five common ones you should be aware of, so that you can gracefully teeter on that edge between understandable and completely outrageous.
We all get knocked down every once in a while. And, being able to stand back up, dust yourself off, and continue pushing forward is actually quite admirable. I’ll spare you the cliché example of how many times Abraham Lincoln was rejected before he finally made a name for himself.
With that being said, there’s a definite line that you don’t want to cross here. If it’s been made clear numerous times that something is just never going to work out they way you want it to, heading back to face that same rejection time and time again is really just senseless and counterproductive. There’s a pretty big difference between being determined and plain ol’ hardheaded, and there comes a point when you’re better off evaluating your options and finding a new approach.
Having a deep-rooted love for what you do is a great thing, and it can definitely make your work life that much easier. But, on the flipside of that coin, you want to be careful to make sure that your passion doesn’t suddenly transform into an obsession.
Sure, we all have times when we need to put our all in to finish up a big project or challenging assignment. But, if you constantly find yourself red-eyed at your computer in the wee hours of the morning and unable to talk or think about anything other than your work? Well, at that point, your passion is pushing you just a little too far.
If you had asked me two years ago, I’d never classify myself as a risk-taker. But, that was before I quit my secure full-time job without any form of a back-up plan in place—otherwise known as the biggest risk I’ve take in my life so far.
Yes, I encountered my fair share (alright, a lot) of people who told me I was completely insane for kissing my cubicle goodbye in favor of a life filled with uncertainty. However, I ignored the numerous remarks about how crazy I was and pushed on with my plan (well, really, my total lack of a plan).
But, even though I could praise the benefits of risk-taking all day (hey, it’s worked out well for me so far!), I think it’s important to recognize that this is one of those traits that can easily crossover from admirable to appalling. Believe me, there are some notable differences between being adventurous and bold, and just plain careless.
Every employer loves a self-starter. If you’re someone who’s willing to take initiative and get things done without any form of prompting, you’ve probably cultivated a pretty great professional reputation for yourself.
But, when you’re someone who’s used to charging ahead without any sort of direction from your superiors, it can be all too easy to continue pushing the envelope to see just how proactive you can be.
There’s a delicate balance to strike here. If you continue to stick to your plans and agenda without any consideration for your boss or colleagues, you’ll likely send a message totally opposite from what you intended. You’ll no longer seem like a self-motivated go-getter. Instead, you’ll just look like a condescending know-it-all who refuses to accept instructions, feedback, or help.
I’m a big believer in being honest and direct. I think it’s often more efficient and also helps to avoid any potential miscommunications. However, the only trouble with being blunt is that you can often come off as a total jerk. So, you need to take care and exercise some caution with your tendency to be honest.
Yes, sharing what you think can be a positive thing—after all, people aren’t mind-readers. But, you need to avoid taking this so far that you just come off as rude and brash.
There’s no denying that we all see things differently depending on what side of the situation we’re standing on. Qualities that seem beneficial and admirable to one person might just come off as a little too much to another.
This is why it’s important to always keep an eye on how you’re presenting yourself. If you embody one (or all!) of the above personality traits, make sure you pay extra attention to those. Being aware of how your behavior looks to others will help you navigate those murky waters between productive and just plain crazy.
Photo of worker courtesy of Shutterstock.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, productivity, and the freelance life. In addition to The Muse, she's a contributor all over the web and dishes out research-backed advice for places like Atlassian, Trello, Toggl, Wrike, The Everygirl, FlexJobs, and more. She's also an Employment Advisor at a local college, and loves helping students prepare to thrive in careers (and lives!) they love. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her two rescue mutts or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author