We all know what red flags are. Typically, red flags are character traits in people that we think are dangerous, toxic, and undesirable. There are obvious red flags like people who hurt puppies, avoid paying taxes, or drink black coffee. Okay okay, that last one was a joke. But, red flags may differ from person to person. Political alignment, conduct on a first date, profanity use, etc. may be red flags for some people. For others, those things don’t bother them. And guess what…that’s perfectly acceptable. It may limit who you spend your time with but that may be important to you.
Red flags give us information about people that help us make a decision: should I keep hanging out with this person or should I be concerned enough to end this relationship? Many of us avoid red flags and continue to pursue a relationship we know we shouldn’t. A few months into it and we’re asking ourselves “Why do I keep falling for the same type of person?”
The short answer to that question is because we seek what is familiar. Humans don’t typically love change. We like what we know. So if you’ve had a lifetime of being treated one way, as horrible as it may have been, it often feels too hard to be treated in any other way. It’s uncomfortable to accept an unfamiliar love. However, that’s where the magic happens.
Red Flag Examples
If you are a person who had to be a caretaker for your parent growing up, you may seek a partner who wants to be taken care of. Even if they are able-bodied and you don’t want to fulfil a caretaker role in your romantic relationship, you may find yourself in that position anyway, because it is familiar. Perhaps at this point in your life, stumbling across potential romantic partners who are on the lazy side is a bit of a red flag for you as you don’t want to find yourself in another caretaker position.
More extreme examples of red flags are people who punch walls when they are upset. Perhaps that behavior is a red flag for you that one day, that partner may direct that punch at you.
So let’s talk green flags. They are character traits that tell you someone might be good person for your life. Obvious ones might be people who are kind, good with kids or animals, people who can hold down a job, of people who take their coffee with cream and sugar…okay I’ll stop.
Green flags may seem obvious but they can be tricky. If your blueprint for how others treat you is one of abuse, abandonment, or toxicity, it can be hard to accept green flag behavior. When people grow up in an environment where they are treated inappropriately, it can be hard to seek relationships where they are treated with respect. Green flags can be hard to chase because we don’t usually pursue that which is unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
However, challenging yourself to not only identify green flags but to go after them is a green flag for you! Heck, reading blogs about improving your mental health is a green flag in my book! As a therapist, green flags in general include the ability to self-reflect, being able to sit with uncomfortable emotions, and communicating needs with others. Click here to explore researched personality traits and decide for yourself which ones are red or green flags.
So my question to you is this: what are your green flags? What do you look for in a potential partner, friend, boss, roommate, etc.? What behaviors signal to you that a human is a good human?
To dig a little deeper, what green flags do you offer to others? What about your red flags?
If you are experiencing red flags in the workplace, you may be interested to read my blog post about the Great Resignation where millions of Americans are leaving toxic job environments.