How to Leverage your Strengths During Conflict
Knowing your Strengths has many benefits that help you experience and live a fuller, more rewarding life. Knowing and operating out of areas where you naturally excel, allows you to tap into your full potential by giving you direction professionally and personally. When armed with this knowledge, you can also navigate change, conflict, or any confusing situation that otherwise leaves you stumped as to how to move forward.
Recently, I’ve been going through my own internal and external conflicts – from professional and personal uncertainty, to relationships with friends and family. As someone who has been working with, studying, and practicing a Strengths Based approach since 2001, I am always thankful when I have this language to fall back on.
Below are a few examples of how I’ve seen the positive, and negative, sides of my Strengths emerge during times of conflict. I’ll share a bit of my own journey, and provide tips and tools for mastering your own.
My Communication During Chaos
One of my Themes is Communication. People with the StrengthsFinder theme of Communication must express themselves (in whatever form), and must be understood. For me, it is this understanding that is at the core of this theme.
Part of that understanding, is knowing what’s going on. I want to understand where someone else is coming from, and also want that person to understand where I am coming from. When that can’t happen, it is really difficult for me.
What I’ve been learning lately, is that the more time that passes, the clearer and crisper my communication, and understanding, becomes. It is in the early moments of a conflict that my attempt to understand and be understood looks like one of those whirly gig sprinklers, spraying water all over the place, hoping it lands on something.
If I pause and pump the proverbial breaks until I’ve had a chance to collect my thoughts, my communication is a more accurate reflection not only of the facts of a situation, but also not quite so emotional. Often I can cut through the clutter, and identify the true issue.
My Restorative and Futuristic During Conflict
My StrengthsFinder theme of Restorative is usually great in a crisis or conflict situation. I love digging in and solving whatever problem is in front of me. There is something about the challenge of putting together the various emotional and relational puzzle pieces that energizes me. In these situations, this pairs well with my Futuristic, because I am trying to solve this problem, and move the relationship or situation, forward.
Sometimes, I have to hold my Restorative back, because jumping in and “fixing” a particular problem isn’t the best first step. I believe looking for solutions is always beneficial, but having the emotional intelligence to understand when you need to sit, listen, and absorb what has happened, also has it’s place.
Over the past few months, I’ve learned that the “let’s fix this” mentality isn’t always what is needed. There is an element of timing that I’m learning is perhaps more important that any particular Strength. Knowing when to engage not only your Strengths, but the Strengths of those you are in conflict with, is perhaps the only way to move forward.
Understanding Your Strengths During Conflict
The above examples are specific to my Strengths profile, but I hope you can apply the principles to your own. Taking time now (presumably when you are not in a crisis or a conflict situation), will pay dividends later when stormy waters arise.
Knowing how your Strengths can help you during conflict comes down to simple self-awareness. The more you understand the behavioral nuances of each, and what your unique ThemePrint looks like, the more you will lean on them during times of stress.
One way to grow in your awareness is to pay attention to what’s going on internally when faced with a setback. It doesn’t need to be huge. In her post about the Darkside of Strengths, Aleasha has great insight about paying attention to these moments.
I am now also equally as attentive to when my strengths are being de-generative. I notice when they are depleting my emotional energy, causing instability, repelling to others or damaging to my relationships. In these dark moments, I try to pause and re-calibrate my strengths to better fit the context. This takes awareness, acceptance and practice.
Here is a simple activity for you to do on a daily basis. Use it in everyday situations to find natural “triggers” – things causing those de-generative expressions of your Themes.
Think about your gut reaction when someone cuts you off in traffic, messes up your Starbucks order, or repeatedly shows up late. Are there people you consistently find yourself at odds with, and you can’t figure out why?
First, write those things down. Be as specific as you can, just stating the fact (keep emotion out of it).
Next, record how you reacted. Don’t try to change it, just go with it. Did you get quiet, try to correct it, or blow up in a fit of rage? What were your emotions like?
Next, replay that situation in your mind, and try to identify what caused your de-generative response. Can you connect it to a Theme of Strength? Maybe your Maximizer wasn’t able to make something excellent, or your Deliberative didn’t have time to think something through. Try to get to the root cause.
Finally, write down a few ideas of what you could have done differently, leveraging the behaviors from your Strengths profile.
Since you’re identifying a common, recurring “issue,” you should be able to practice a more generative response the next time it happens.
Your Strengths during Conflict
As Brian has written recently, the purpose of this work, is to turn the focus from self to others. But, it begins with you. If you feel brave enough, share your trigger points below, and we (along with others from our community) can offer some feedback to see how you might respond to it in a Strengths based way.