August 2020 - Volume 1, Issue 4 | VIA Institute

August 2020 - Volume 1, Issue 4

By Dr. Ryan Niemiec

A one-minute read for practitioners, researchers, and educators to stay informed on the science & practice of character strengths.

In this briefing, I’m zeroing in on the specific character strength of perspective. In a COVID-related survey it was found that people are reporting they need perspective now more than ever. Whether you are working or going to school, in quarantine, making your way back to work and community, and/or figuring out how to move forward in this “new normal,” your strength of perspective is critical. You need it now. And, we can all benefit from your perspective strength.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT THE STRENGTH OF PERSPECTIVE

  • Perspective is found in the aerial view from the plane looking down and seeing the vast landscape, farmlands, ocean, and mountains with a lens the ground cannot give.
  • It is present in the thoughtful advice shared to you by a loved one.
  • It’s found when you see the wider forest at the same time as the specific trees within it.
  • It is discovered when you leap from the details of a project to “the larger why” you are doing it in the first place.
  • It’s in the choice to be around a wise person instead of a toxic person.
  • It is there in the ah-ha! that arises in your head.
  • It’s stepping back from the entanglements of an argument to see the person you are arguing with, to see your relationship with them, to see the commonalities among you.
  • It is found when we look inward for an answer and we discover a truth.
  • It’s present when we put ourselves in another person’s shoes.
  • It’s asking yourself the question – in any situation – What matters most?

FROM THE SCIENCE: RESEARCH YOU CAN USE

  • People have more perspective (also called wisdom) than they realize.
    • Some of the least quoted (and best) research in all of positive psychology comes from the Berlin Wisdom Project extending more than two decades. It revealed a handful of important interventions that boost wisdom (called wisdom-related knowledge). One pathway discovered was short, direct interventions, called imagined conversation and imagined travel.
      • Subjects imagined a back-and-forth conversation with a wise person about a life problem (imagined conversation), or imagined taking the problem to various cultures and people across the globe reflecting on differences in life context and values (imagined travel).
      • The results? Wisdom grew (significantly, compared to controls – almost one standard deviation). In the imagined conversation activity, the growth in wisdom was the same whether the subject imagined it or conversed with an actual person! (Gluck & Baltes, 2006; script in Niemiec, 2014).
  • How to Apply This Research
    • You might not have to teach your clients new knowledge in order to build their wisdom.
      • Have your client name a minor problem or stressor. Invite them to have an inner dialogue with a wise person about the problem. They should imagine them posing questions and descriptions to the person and imagine the wise person’s response and the back and forth exchange.
      • This activity is best conducted by a professional trained to help clients deal with problems.
    • Try it out for yourself first!

SUBSCRIBE TO BRIEFINGS

Every other month Dr. Ryan Niemiec, VIA's Education Director, sends a newsletter to connect with researchers, strengths practitioners and educators from around the world. He offers things such as a character strengths research finding, a practical nugget, and/or a character strengths story or dialogue he's found inspiring. His hope is that it will prime your day and week with character strengths. Also, let it serve as a reminder that you can reach out at anytime to share your study, your strength applications, and your latest innovations! This article captures a past newsletter. To receive newsletters in real-time, click to subscribe

REFERENCES

Gluck, J., & Baltes, P. B. (2006). Using the concept of wisdom to enhance the expression of wisdom knowledge: Not the philosopher’s dream but differential effects of developmental preparedness. Psychology and Aging, 21, 679–690.

Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Boston: Hogrefe.

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