Personal Strengths Aha: “Hard to Live With” Strengths

At Leadership Vision, we have a specific delivery around how we hold strengths based conversations. However, I find I learn the most about the visible behaviors of strengths when I simply practice the art of paying attention.  I have found that everyday conversations are where some of the best learning can take place.

Recently, in one of those everyday conversations, my personal learning exploded. For me, I was just minding my own business, chatting with a friend, and then a simple statement disrupted the ordinary interplay of life and in this case, Strengths.

This is what happened.

Among the hustle and bustle of a house full of people, I was having a dinner dialogue with a friend who is deeply steeped in the Strengths movement. I noticed that the Strengths language immediately provided a shorthand in our back and forth chatter. Breathing in one concept, breathing out another. We both have had thousands of conversations with individuals and have worked with even more people on teams and in audiences. I felt a mutual sense of understanding that there are no shortcuts to learn the talents and behaviors of Strengths. We agreed to become fluent in the language of Strengths, it is an artistry beyond mere rote memorization. It takes time, coupled with the the continual sharpening and shape shifting to get our Strengths biases in check and to embrace the descriptive, helpful, and generative application of Strengths.

Although we weren’t having a “Strengths Conversation,” as people who do this for a living, it’s impossible not to hear and see the behaviors of Strengths in everyday language. It’s all simmering on the back burner, but we can put the focus on the person and topic and hand.

After learning a little about my Strengths, this friend said to me,

I’m sure those Strengths are hard to live with.

I was startled. He was referring to my descriptions of how my Empathy and Individualization play out. His statement, spoken with kindness, and a simple mirror like reflection, stopped me in my tracks. I played it cool, but my internal dialogue felt like it came to a screeching halt. I held my breath. Internally, I demanded an answer to what he meant. Instead I brushed it off with humor, saying,

Yeah, well,my husband could probably attest to that.

My Personal Strengths Aha

With all the work I do, I rarely think I’m going to have a “Strengths aha” sitting at my own kitchen table. Something was suddenly seen, found and understood, which is the dictionary definition of the word “aha.”

My internal response was soothed by his re-frame, “I don’t mean that, I mean you, in you. That Empathy and Individualization are a pair that might be hard for you personally to live with.”

As my breath, and heart and mind powered up again, I felt like I was at the foot of a sage. I think he was onto something. My mind flooded with examples, but I asked him for clarification.

He began simply,

I mean to have an intuitive awareness of what people are feeling might…

At that point, I don’t even remember all he said, but I’m thankful for what he did. His comment stopped me on my own Strengths journey. And as all wise people do, he didn’t point me in a direction, but he paved a way for me to reflect, consider and find the answers that are within. This momentary pause allowed me to look at my strengths in another direction. I felt inspired to reflect, act and serve others out of this new awareness.

I cannot express how grateful I am for his sticky words and boldness to speak what he saw and heard.

I am a person who gets excited about Strengths conversations and using the Strengths language to listen to and get to know people. In every interaction with others, I find myself deep in the mystery of who people are, how they tick, and what makes us all human. I often find I learn more about myself as well.

What I learned that day was how the ordinary, mundane and daily nature of Strengths unlocks normal conversation and invites deeper depths, and the true gift of being relational and intentional with our approach.

Your Strengths

When was the last time in a conversation that you learned something new about your own Strengths? When was the last time you had a Strengths aha? How did you respond? What did you relearn or incorporate into your daily life as a result of that?