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10 Character Flaws That Can Derail Even Good People

I am a counselor in Tucson who has successfully treated hundreds of adults who has learned one key insight about people:  Good people can become great, but usually they don’t.

Part of the problem is good people are often unaware of how close they are to becoming great. What do I mean? The termination of only a few traits/habits/preferences is often enough to move someone much closer to “greatness”. This can mean greatness overall or in terms of some specific sport or skill.

Want proof? Think about three friends or colleagues you know very well, and with each person imagine they no longer exhibited three traits that you know people around them commonly agree are their most annoying personality “thorns”. Then, imagine those three people no longer had their three “personality thorns”. How much closer would those three be to being great instead of just being good or average? I am betting a LOT closer. Sports psychologists often help athletes change only 1 or 2 thought or behavior patterns, and that brings greatness.

Chew on this: A very small percentage of a person’s psychological makeup (say, 2% of their total set of personal traits/preferences/habits) can undermine the other 98% of their makeup that is healthy and positive. A trainload of healthy habits can be derailed by a few bad habits. Think about it: How many times have you said to yourself, “I really like X except they are so…” and ended your statement by naming one trait/habit/preference only? That ONE trait was a blockade to you forming a deeper, more trusting, longer term relationships with them. That ONE trait is also likely what I call a “derailer” – a major reason they are not promoted, are not a better parents, friends, etc. etc.

Look in the mirror. Do you recognize the value of insightfully managing your thorns? If not, you are likely derailed and you do not even know it. Studies have shown that even supposedly mature organizational leaders often fail to lead because they have personality thorns that they defensively protect, leading to truly catastrophic consequences. Personality derailers are not simply annoying traits, but often kill your ability to grow, relate, or at work be promoted or lead a team.

Good news. We behavioral science experts are learning which personality thorns are particularly likely to derail someone. Advanced behavioral science assessment tools are providing 360 degree x-rays into personality and character for children, parents, athletes, and business people. The following are 10 derailers that seem to not just irritate others, but stifle the personal and professional maturity process. Whatever age or role in life you are serving, take heed:


You are not truly happy for others success, and you work too hard to “keep up” with others on a material level.


Defensiveness toward being corrected or criticized. Generally hypersensitive people don’t mature, they just grow old.


If you come off as cold/distant, you will not be trusted or influential.


Overly emotional people are attention hogs, and focus on themselves, not on the reality around them.


Eccentrics are funny in the moment, but when building a team may lack the ability tone down their eccentricity to build rapport. Deeper relationships are absent.


You believe you deserve everything you want. A rampant epidemic attitude in our society.

Unreliable Character

You are unpredictable, and not trusted or confided in.

Eagerness to Please

You are more of a pleaser than an honest communicator. But your displeasure with things builds up and explodes at times.

Morally Scrupulous

You find fault with even small misbehavior. No one meets every one of your rules. Your best friend is yourself.

Making Destructive Comments

Needless sarcasm and cutting remarks erode any rapport you may have built up. Your relationships never “run deeper”.

This is not a complete list, and if you want to know what your derailers are, you or your child can undergo a 360 degree evaluation which comprehensively yet concisely assesses your personality.

For more information you may want to check out the following credible books, which are as applicable to parents (who can cultivate a child away from these tendencies early on) as they are to business clients/athletes:

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Marshall Goldsmith (New York Times Bestseller) &
Why CEO’s Fail, By David Dotlich & Peter Cairo

Please feel free to forward this blog to anyone who might benefit.

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Meet Doctor Brunner

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Brunner is a Tucson based psychologist and published expert who has a 20 year track record of clinical excellence, scientific research, teaching, publications, awards and podcast interviews.  He is the senior author of a psychological measure adapted into 14 languages worldwide, and has written over 250 blogs, many of them have gone viral.  He is revolutionizing the field of career guidance with his fresh and trademarked approach that is spreading like wildfire. Sign up here to be notified of soon to be published book, Find Your Real Me: Career Guidance Making You Truly Free.