A Eulogy for the Living: Using Strengths Language to Connect
I have attended far too many funerals this year. Some expected and some not. Well-intentioned euphemisms like ‘Memorial’ or ‘Celebration of Life’ are a generous attempt to ease the grief and shift the emotional tide. Yes, they do give us a chance to weave together the memories and relationships that ultimately create the unique tapestry of a life.
But Death will always feel indiscriminate and unjust to those of us left behind. The cruelest irony of all is life’s only inevitability.
Too Little Too Late
So for me, writing her eulogy felt like a waste. It seemed so trite to distill her lifetime into a watery broth of anecdotes and truisms…all while keeping it to 10 minutes so it could fit perfectly between a hymn and a prayer. It was painfully obvious that the only person who needed to hear these words was gone.
And so, surrounded by cascading bullet points of my memories and emotions, I wept. I was smothered by the realization that I had kept my respect and adoration for her all to myself.
A 10 Second Strengths Based Tribute
I wonder. What if eulogies were for the living? What if we paid small tributes to one another each and every day? What if we vowed to affirm, commend, and express our gratitude in real time? What would this look like with our loved ones, our friends, and our colleagues?
10 seconds to recognize a value, acknowledge a strength, and pause for gratitude. Would it make a difference?
Out of the Zone
I stepped out of my comfort zone with this one. Instead of keeping my thoughts to myself, I sought natural opportunities to express my appreciation. Having been a teacher for almost twenty years, I know that the specificity of my praise matters. So I fought the urge to whip out my generic go-tos like, ‘You’re awesome’ or ‘Thanks for that’.
I guess I realized what I already knew- this is MUCH easier to do with children than it is do with family or colleagues. With other adults, there can be an awkwardness that paralyzes the thoughts.
What do I say?
How do I say it?
When do I say it?
It takes conscious effort and practice to convert the raw thinking into meaningful verse.
A mentor of mine has taught me that gratitude is different than giving thanks. Gratitude necessitates purposeful pause. It is specific and resonates far deeper than a glib thank you. So I continue to challenge myself to use a 10-second tribute to express my gratitude in real time.
Typically, I would say to my colleague something like this,
Thanks for the idea, that helped a lot.
But that wasn’t really what I was thinking. Behind my simple words, I was actually thinking that my colleague has this incredible ability to generate ideas that amplify my own. Her generative Ideation sparks my creativity and makes my work better.
So I decided to tell her exactly that. In 10 seconds, I was able to convey how much I appreciate the behaviors of her strength. Anchoring my brief tributes using Strengths language absolutely makes a difference.
The Power of Conversation
In my new role as a consultant, I am fortunate to meet people from all over the world and gain insight into what makes them strong. At LVC, we know the profound impact a simple conversation can have. Challenging teams to engage in a shared Strengths language, builds trust and common understanding. Even between the closest of colleagues, there is much to discover, acknowledge and appreciate.
In both our 1 to 1 conversations and our Learning Community 360 session, we create the space and opportunity for deep introspection and learning to take place. Like holding a prism to the light, the Strengths language will highlight nuances of yourself and others that you never knew existed.
The challenge is to share this genius and beauty with those who need to hear it the most. Try a 10 second tribute today. Don’t wait for the eulogy.