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How To Frame A Client Meeting Around Strengths

August 23, 2016 by ·

business people talking on business meetingOne of the first “homework assignments” I give my new clients is to take the free VIA Survey through my VIA professional site. For a recent client I decided to have her take the survey through my VIA professional site and not show her the results upon completion. Her strengths were then added to my account and I could reveal them to her during our next meeting. It proved to be a very illuminating experience for the client and for me as her coach! We used strengths to explore a common issue that many people have around making decisions. Here is how the conversation went:

“That is it. That describes me!” said the young woman. (I had just showed her that her highest character strength was critical thinking/judgment).

“How do you mean?” I asked, as her coach.

“Well, as it says here, it’s true, I’m very logic-based, I think about the evidence when I’m making decisions, I don’t jump to conclusions.”

“That makes sense from what I know about you. Do you see how judgment/critical thinking plays out in your daily life?”

“Of course. People tell me I’m always ‘in my head.’ I guess because I’m always thinking and analyzing things. It’s how I approach the world. A situation comes up and I go into logic mode and ask myself: what is realistic for this situation? I go to a meeting and I give a different point of view from what everyone else in the room is sharing. I get stuck in a difficult situation and I try to think my way out.”

“Does this strength cause any problems for you?” I wondered.

“Definitely. I can get so indecisive that I freeze up. I don’t know what to do.”

“How does freezing up relate to your judgment strength?”

“Because I use judgment to see all the possible scenarios and options. It’s as if every choice has not 2 but 22 different ways I could respond. My judgment helps me discern the best choice from these. I can usually narrow my choices down to a couple good options but then I just keep thinking and thinking: ‘What about this and what about that?’ I compile so much evidence and rationale for each side that I’m at a lost for which choice to take action with.”

“So what do you do?”

“Well, when I’m on my game, I choose one and go with it. I sort of just know what to do. When I’m not on my game, I sit there, frozen in indecisiveness.”

“When you are on your game and able to take action with a decision, which of your other character strengths do you think you are calling forth to support your judgment strength?”

“Hmmm…”

“Take a look at this list of character strengths here. As these 24 strengths have been found in all human beings, they are all in you as well…some more strongly than others. Does any strength strike you as a collaborator to your judgment strength?”

“Ok, I see. I will say social intelligence. That helps me consider the emotional perspective of others in making tough decisions. And, it takes me out of the immediate scenario to then look at scenarios in other contexts involving other people to get further insight. But, if the decision I’m stuck on involves my immediate family, then I call forth my strength of love. And, I also ask myself: what’s right for others? What feels like would be best for them? There’s my kindness strength coming forth.

“Interesting, each of those three strengths fall under the virtue of humanity. The humanity virtue is all about connecting with others.”

“Definitely true for me. I value my connections with people. I try to offer something good for others as well as accept what they can offer me.”

“So, to summarize, it sounds like you can get really riddled with indecision. In those situations, your best bet is to turn to relationships – what you can do for others and which decision will be best in benefiting others. And it sounds like your social intelligence strength and your kindness and love strengths will help you get there. Is that right?”

“Yup, that’s me.”

“I want to mention that your strong tendency toward critical thinking and judgment is a wonderful strength – so very important. I hope you take time to really appreciate, maybe even celebrate, this quality within you. Clearly it has served you well in your life – helped you achieve many things, form relationships, and enjoy life. And, at times, our greatest strengths need some support. This is where it appears you can bring forth your “heart” strengths, such as love and kindness, to balance your mind strength of judgment.”

Comments About This Dialogue

Labeling packs a powerful punch. Many of us are accomplished at labeling our bad qualities and problems but less accomplished when it comes to labeling what’s best in us. Labeling of the good (also known as “character strengths-spotting”) is a great starting point for working with strengths. This helps us understand and appreciate our inherent character strengths and, as seen in this dialogue, can help us in understanding our problems (e.g., indecisiveness).

Character strengths-spotting triggers us to…
See the good…
which leads to understanding the good…
which leads to being motivated to be the good…
which leads to acting good….
which leads to spreading the good…
which leads to a stronger society.

More from Dr. Ryan Niemiec and the VIA Institute on Character at www.viacharacter.org

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