Exploring the strength of Fairness

How are you expressing your strength of fairness at work, at home, and community?

What circumstances make it easier or harder for you to compromise to a position of fairness?

Are you encountering people or situations where you are given feedback about acting unfairly?

What emotions do you experience when you perceive injustice, and how does that impact your ability to be fair?

How does your sense of fairness reconcile with the oft-quoted proposition that “life is not fair”?

Fairness involves treating everyone according to universal ideals of equality and justice. Fair individuals do not let their personal feelings bias their moral or ethical decisions about others but instead rely on a broad set of moral values. True fairness incorporates respect for moral guidelines and a compassionate approach to caring for others. This strength applies at all levels of society, from everyday interactions to international social justice issues. It is the bedrock of any system of justice. It is the product of moral judgment, the process by which people determine what is morally right, what is morally wrong, and what is morally proscribed and forbidden. Fairness includes two types of reasoning: “justice reasoning,” which emphasizes logic, and “care reasoning,” which provides for empathy, care, and the ability and willingness to take the perspective of others.

See if this applies to you, “You see yourself as committed to the idea that the same rules apply to everyone, and you are vested in giving everyone a fair chance. You do not let personal feelings or issues bias decisions about others. Everyone’s opinion counts, regardless of whether or not they share the same opinion. Compromise is important to you. You are sensitive to issues of social justice, have compassion for others, and possess the perceptiveness necessary for relational understanding. When at your best, you use the strength of fairness to actively work to establish equity and respect.”

Self-monitoring exercises: The next time you make a mistake, see whether you admit it. Try to be more forthright about your mistakes in the future.

The next time you present an argument, see whether you compromise fairness for social desirability. Be objective while still considering the feelings of others.

See whether your judgments are affected by your personal likes and dislikes or are based on principles of justice and fairness. Then, try to minimize the influence of your personal preferences when making future judgments.

See whether you think about or treat people of other ethnicities and cultures stereotypically. When dealing with people from different backgrounds, remember that they are individuals with unique characteristics, opinions, and beliefs.

Self-reflective exercises: Recall and write about instances where you were unfair or could have been fairer. Consider how you could improve your future behavior.

Read biographies of famous people who exemplify social justice. Consider what strengths you share with these figures.

Watch a film or documentary that exemplifies fairness, social justice, and equity. Think of how the topic relates to issues you encounter in your life.

Consider ways to be fairer with friends, family, and colleagues.

Consider different viewpoints when approaching a problem.

Actively engage with your strength of fairness: Encourage equal participation of everyone involved in a discussion or activity, especially those who feel left out. Foster a reputation as an “includer.”

Speak up for the groups you belong to. Be a voice for the rights of others in a manner that respects people from other groups.

Volunteer for or learn about an organization that educates and campaigns for equal human rights. Provide an example of respectful, informed activism.

Serve in a club or organization that offers unprivileged people a leveling playing field. Likewise, encourage your place of employment to provide a level playing field whenever you see the opportunity.

Politely discuss fairness with friends whom you notice show gender or ethnic bias. Allow them to explain their reasoning, and be aware that they may have had past experiences that negatively affected them. Be a good listener and a role model for just behavior.

Support others in exploring their beliefs and perceptions about people from diverse backgrounds.

Write a letter to an editor or speak up on an important issue concerning social justice. Write in a firm, reasonable, and respectful manner to all concerned. Use language that emphasizes positivity and strengths.

Explore an ongoing event anywhere where human rights are being violated. Write your reactions and suggestions to promote social justice on that issue.

Fair-minded individuals are more likely to engage in positive, prosocial behavior and less likely to engage in conduct that has a direct negative impact on others.

Fairness is enhanced by the ability to take the perspective of others.

Sensitivity to issues of morality and justice increases self-reflection and self-knowledge. Moreover, an excellent moral compass enables individuals to healthily get out of conflicting and ambivalent situations.


Overuse of Fairness

We are often tempted to try to correct all injustices as they unfold before us, resulting in frustration and disappointment. It is vital to choose our battles wisely. Perseverance can help address the fundamental inequities, and compassion, kindness, and judgment can help understand other points of view. We can use self-regulation and prudence to help us rein in our fairness strength when we find ourselves using it in too many situations. See if this sounds like you, “I may react strongly to situations where beliefs and values that I consider essential are not being upheld. I may adhere strictly to procedures without considering their nuances in workplace relationships. Standing up for a cause at any price could jeopardize my political capital and credibility.”


Underuse of Fairness

There may be missed opportunities to express this strength optimally across contexts. For example, it is not uncommon for people to express their fairness strength strongly in one setting, e.g., home and personal life, yet lose sight of using it in other routine situations, e.g., at work, or vice versa.

While sometimes underuse of fairness can be nothing more than an oversight, sometimes people can withhold the expression of fairness for motivational reasons; for example, there can be the dilemma of not treating someone fairly in reaction to perceiving that that person has mistreated you. In addition, competitive environments may present a challenge to being fair consistently.

Underuse contexts may include where standards and regulations lack clarity, are not sufficiently geared toward the common good, or seem unfair, where the criteria and conditions underlying decisions and actions are unclear and open the door to favoritism. These underuse contexts will impact the fair person as significant discomfort and dissatisfaction, resulting in an irrepressible impulse to address what seems inappropriate and to take action in the name of the common good.


Optimization of Fairness

In your capacity as a leader, you can accentuate this strength by ensuring that criteria and procedures are documented, disseminated, implemented, and enforced; asking all colleagues for their input; assigning a task to someone you do not usually delegate work to; identifying three strengths for each of your employees, including those with whom you have a challenging relationship.


Optimal use of Fairness

See if you can affirm this statement, “In my capacity as a leader, at my best, I treat every person with dignity and respect. I apply the same rules to everyone, and I give the same chances and opportunities to my team and my colleagues. I judge people on their professional performance, not their personal characteristics.”

“Absolute truth is a myth. Every truth is shaped by context. My signature strength is Fairness.”


Themes of StrengthsFinder relevant to the VIA Character Strength of Fairness – Consistency



The person talented in the Consistency theme is keenly aware of the need to treat people equally and believes that people function best in a consistent environment where the rules are clear and equally applied to everyone. Such an environment is predictable, balanced, and evenhanded, where people know what is expected. It is fair, and each person has an even chance to show his or her worth without special favors and unfair advantage.

When working with a person with talent in the Consistency theme, support her during times of significant change because she is most comfortable with predictable patterns she knows well. Inclined to the practical, this person prefers accomplishing tasks and making decisions instead of more abstract brainstorming or long-range planning. After completing a project, ask this person to pinpoint and recognize everyone’s contribution to ensuring each person receives the accolades he or she truly deserves.


Ideas for Action for the Consistency talent

Always practice what you preach to set the tone for equality and encourage peaceful compliance.

Others will appreciate your genuine commitment to consistency between what you have promised and what you will deliver. Always stand up for what you believe, even under solid resistance.

Make a list of rules of consistency to live by based on your values or policies you consider non-negotiables. Be clear about these rules; within these boundaries, you will be more comfortable with individuality.

Find a role to enforce compliance with a set of standards. Be ready to challenge people who break the rules or “grease the wheels” to earn an unfair advantage.

Because you value equality, you find it hard to deal with individuals who bend the rules to fit their situation. Your Consistency talents can help you clarify regulations, policies, and procedures to ensure they are applied uniformly. Draft protocols to clearly state these rules.

At work or in your community, become a leader in helping provide disadvantaged people the platform to show their potentials.

Make sure respect is always given to who performed the work, pinpointing those who deserve credit and acting as your group’s conscience.

Keep your focus on performance without overemphasizing how someone gets work done and ignoring what she gets done.

Partner with someone with powerful Maximizer or Individualization talents to remind you when it is appropriate to accommodate individual differences.

Leverage your Consistency talents when communicating unpleasant news as you help others appreciate the rationale behind decisions.