Everything Your Parents Did Not Tell You About Strengths and Weaknesses

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Strengths and weaknesses in interaction with each other often create exciting and some times hard to handle dynamic in relationships. It is also a topic that is not too often discussed in a mature and open manner. I might fear that talking about my strengths might be labeled as boasting. Weaknesses might be avoided becaused they make me feel vulnerable and, well, weak.

I have several people who have a much easier time with making a list of their weaknesses than to talk about some of their strengths. When asked to share their strengths they go silent and have to ask people around them for help. Of course I have also encountered the opposite type, the one who immidiately lists three to four strengths, but is totally unable to even think of one weakness.

A word I tend to implement when dialoging with people to use instead of weakness is the words “area of improvement”. For if we find that there is something that we are not so good at, then it is also reasonable to think that that is an area of my personality where I have the biggest potential for growth and improvement.

Another interesting perspective on strengths and weaknesses is found in a tool called SDI®, which is an inventory of our strengths in relation to other people. The inventory was developed by Elias Porter and you can read more about it at www.personalstrengths.com, the website of Personal Strengths Publishing. Porter labels weaknesses as overdone strengths. This is a very interesting way to look at it.

Say for example that you consider yourself to be not so good at putting forth your opinion in group discussions. Most of the time you sit quiet, observing what the others are saying. One might then say that you are “weak” in the area of expressing your personal opinions to the group. If we use the perspective of Elias Porter, we would exchange that and say that you instead are overdoing your strength, in this case listening. You listen so intensely and so much to the others that you forget about yourself. Instead of thinking that you must find some way to strengthen yourself so you dare and can speak more often in the group, you should instead do less, less of your strength, i. e listening.

This might sound like a small difference, but the change of perspective has meant so much to many people I have encountered.

I once met a man who was considered a steamroller by his co-workers. They felt he just ran them right over with his opinions and views of things. The conflict filled atmoshere changed drastically when they were instead able to appreciate his powerful strength in being a driving force in the group. What would a group without someone to drive it forward be? A stand still sportscar with phenomenal rescources but with out the ability to move the accelerator towards the floor. The person we are talking about here felt seen and appreciated when the group changed their view of his behavior and he felt he did not have to try as hard to feel important in the group. This lead to him being more relaxed and more receptive for the feedback about his overdone strength, meaning being perceived as a steamroller. He was able to listen deeply and with the new found trust this dialogue created in the group he was able to use somewhat less of his overdone strength and this in turn made a huge difference in the groups work and efficiency.

To create a climate where we can honor each others strengths and support one another in the work on our so called weakness, that is a key great success in group work. It is taking a giant leap on a path of respect, effectiviness and deep human satisfaction that is worth immense amounts of money to any business and enourmous amounts of love to a family.

Markus Eriksson

The author Markus Eriksson, is an international developer of human potential, having worked with organizations, leaders and individuals in Asia, Europe and America for over 10 years. He is a much appreciated meeting facilitator, speaker and multimedia author. He is also the creator of the “Everything Your Parents Did Not Tell You”-series in which he with a combination of straight forwardness, warmth and humor shares his knowledge to make you and the world even better. You can find him at http://ww.advenire.com


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