How to Discover Your Real Worst Trait
(So You Can Be Happier and Better Accomplish Goals!)

by Brian Vaszily for

She told me that I tended to be impatient. I couldn’t wait to hear exactly what she meant by that.

But this time, because it was one of the essential rules of the exercise whose ultimate aim was to help me improve myself toward being happier and better able to accomplish goals, I kept my mouth shut.

Yes, the moment my wife told me my worst trait was impatience, I felt a powerful need to defend myself. I wanted to point out that what she saw as impatience was really my go-getter nature, my accept-nothing-but-the-best (and now) attitude, and therefore it couldn’t possibly be my worst trait.

She saw me literally biting down on my tongue and she laughed. “See, you’re fighting your impatience right now. You want to respond before I even have a chance to explain what I mean when I say impatience is your worst trait.”

And in that way that only a spouse can, she took a much-longer-than-necessary pause -- she may as well have filed her nails, chewed gum and stared at the ceiling for further effect – before continuing on. But even then I stayed silent, per the rules.

She then explained that “intense drive” was indeed one of my best qualities, but that its flipside was the often intense impatience she was referring to … an impatience that sometimes made her and others I cared most about feel inadequate, or at least mighty irritated, and an impatience that was likely also my own worst enemy.

She provided various details and examples, I shut up and listened, and sure enough – POP!– that oversized light bulb you used to see in cartoons came to life above my head.

She was absolutely right.

Now of course I am married to her, so I didn’t put that news to her in those terms. But when she was (finally) done voicing why she believed my worst trait was impatience, I simply thanked her. That was also per the rules, but I really meant it.

The simple exercise had worked wonders at opening my eyes.

I then – per the rules – launched into what I believed her worse trait to be, and why. (Actually I started by saying, “I think your worse trait is your inability to recognize my worst traits,” but she just shook her head and rolled her eyes so I got serious.)

A few months later, when I went through this same “What Do You Think My Worst Trait Is?” exercise with my mother, sister and brother-in-law at a holiday meal, my impatience was again the answer I received (at least from my mother and sister; my brother-in-law said my worst trait was my inability to beat him at poker.)

Hearing that from other trusted sources of course only made that light bulb above my head burn brighter.

By shutting up and simply listening to this constructive criticism from those who cared about me – a beautiful thing, but a rare and difficult thing to do as I am certain you reading this can personally attest too – I was prompted to face something about myself that I had glimpsed before … but never directly confronted.

Because of this, today I am happy to report that I am the most patient person in the world.

Okay. NOT.

But I am aware of my tendency toward “intense impatience,” and have been working in various ways to reduce it. It’s a long road, and I will probably never reach the destination of most patient person in the world, but the point is I am now on the road.

“What Do You Think My Worst Trait Is?” – THE RULES

By now you likely get the gist of “What Do You Think My Worst Trait Is?” Below are some specific and important rules.

You will find that going through this exercise with your spouse, other loved ones and friends can be one of the most intense growth experiences of all for you, helping you to improve yourself and be happier and better able to accomplish goals because of it.

To hear what those who know you best think you need to work on most, without the opportunity of interference, an explanation or reply, will provide you some possibly challenging but truly powerful and transformative insights.


  1. Ask your loved one(s) to please tell you what your worst trait is (or your two or three worst traits), noting your commitment to silence as they do so. You’ll love the look you get when you ask this.
  2. In turn, explain that you can do the same for them when they are done with you … but only if they choose to have you do so. This reciprocation should not be required, however. They may not be ready to hear the truth from you; you are ready to hear it from them, though.
  3. Agree to these rules with your loved one(s.) And agree to abide by them within yourself.
  4. Be silent as your loved one provides you the answer to “What Do You Think My Worst Trait Is?” Don’t ask for clarification. Don’t try to pull them back if they meander into other areas that don’t seem relevant to their reply. They are going where they go for a reason, so it is relevant … and likely quite worthwhile to you.

    PROMISE to stay silent and let them answer, let them explain, let them talk until they are done. (You can, of course, agree to answer any questions they may ask of you in the course of your answer, or to ask to go to the bathroom.)

  5. When they are done with their answer, just thank them. Fight any urge to explain or defend yourself even at this point.

    Perhaps you believe they got some detail or example wrong; that is NOT the point. The big picture is the point. They told you what they told you, and gave you what they gave you, because that is the way they see it. And because they care about you. Though this or that detail may be off, there is remarkable value in that!

    (When they are done, you can of course ask questions for the sake of clarification and your deeper understanding; but commit to remain silent in terms of “defending” yourself against the insights. They’re not attacking – they’re loving – so try to remember there is nothing to defend.)

  6. If you did agree to reciprocate, make sure you are not feeling any urge to “get back at them” if anything that poured forth from them rattled you.

    If you are feeling that, take a breather. Step away if need be and remind yourself that there is no fight here, this is all being done out of love and for the sake of growth. (And hey, you started it anyway!)

  7. If they violate the rules as you explain your answer, just kindly remind them that they are doing so. Tell them if they don’t want you to go on you won’t – you are not attacking but loving, providing your honest answer as requested, and they can later choose to do with it what they will, unless they genuinely choose that you stop … in which case you should, because your answer to them is for them, NOT a “get it off your chest” opportunity for you.
  8. You can also opt to agree to conclude by telling one another your best traits; it’s an additional positive way to close the conversation, and what you learn may surprise you as well.
  9. When you are both done, in addition to a thank you, hug one another. If you are not used to hugging one another, hug one another. If you are a guy and the loved one you do this with is also guy, and you are both too tough to hug, hug one another.

    It is the perfect finish to a powerful exercise whose benefits –including a greater focus on where you need work and the resulting greater happiness and ability to accomplish goals – are only starting (but only if you ponder and act on the answer you were given about your worst trait, of course.)

    Oh, and if it is your loved one or significant other, also throw in a kiss of gratitude. I did with my wife, and I made sure it was deep, heartfelt and most of all -- unrushed.