Strengths Spotlight: Individualization

by Maribeth Flakes, Associate Director – Office of Student Involvement and Leadership

Top 5: Woo, Empathy, Communication, Individualization, Discipline

In elementary school, I was always most interested in the comments my teachers would leave, I distinctly remember hoping they would write something about how I got along well with my peers or I was a team player in the classroom, but then my mom would tell me the same consistent message… my teachers always wrote that I talked too much. To this day my talking to people is sometimes a little much, particularly to introverted types (like my husband) but, everyone has a different story and I am always interested in knowing getting to know what makes you, you so now I see it as a strength, a quality of what makes me unique and thankfully, now I have some backup for my thoughts…

I describe my Individualization as what drives that curiosity behind people and their individual stories. I listen to the nuances of when people share and I try to ask questions that allow people to know I am not hearing them, I am genuinely listening, and I want to know more. Getting an accurate ‘read’ on people has always come easy to me, I try to determine how people like to work with others, what makes them upset or happy, and what drives them to do what they do, and when working with others, I try to accommodate to the style and preference of the team members.


In my work at BSU, it is important to me to get to know the students and colleagues I work with, our work at the University is only a part of who we are, and to best work together, I always feel like it is important to appreciate the other parts of who we are. I often feel like my individualization helps me be a good judge of character. I really value how my individualization works alongside my theme of Empathy, and my theme of Communication which allows me to articulate how people are different and have different approaches. Alot of the work I am most passionate around are issues of social justice and diversity and I believe that comes from my general appreciation of difference, individualization helps me see people for who they are as individuals not necessarily as a group or some social construct. It’s important to me that students and colleagues know I appreciate them for who they are, where they are. Another area that has helped me best understand myself and my individualization is around giving recognition, I have always loved celebrating people’s successes and wins, for me it isn’t enough to just thank everyone, I like giving meaningful and individualized recognition that is thought out just for that person, and the truth is.. that’s how I like to receive recognition too.

Looking back, I understand how my teachers may have misunderstood my talent of Individualization and through time I have learned the rules of ‘time and place’. I like to believe, however, that the time and energy I took getting to know my classmates, even in elementary school, was valuable to them and to me in the long run.



About cindykane

Director of @BSUInvolved and interested in leadership and professional development strategies. Mom, scholar-practitioner, looking to make an impact!
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