Why Character Strengths?
To first understand why character strengths are so important, you first need to understand what human beings want. People have 3 fundamental needs:
- To express who they are
- Be recognized/valued/accepted by others
- And to feel a part of something bigger than themselves
Character strengths (especially signature strengths) are the most important aspects of an individual’s personality that they want recognized and understood by others and are important for them to express.
The Challenge: Strengths Blindness
Research shows that two-thirds of people are unaware of their strengths (Linley 2008). This reflects a pervasive lack of self-awareness or disconnection with one’s personal identity. There are many different forms of strengths blindness: general unawareness, disconnecting strengths use and meaning, seeing strengths as ordinary instead of extraordinary, and overusing strengths.
Chances are, the individuals you are working with in your role as a coach, manager, educator, or consultant are, in some ways, blind to their strengths. It is your job to help them spot and appreciate their strengths, allowing them to discover new parts of themselves, and parts which have been forgotten or suppressed.
The Solution: Strengths Spotting
Spotting Strengths in Yourself
Know thyself. This mantra is the starting point for character strengths work. It is important to first recognize, label and affirm your own character strengths.
- After you take the VIA Survey, which strengths appear at the top? Exploring these results is a great way to begin generating a greater awareness of the strengths in yourself.
- Use your “life stories”, both big and small to help you spot the strengths you express. For example, consider your happiest moments. What character strengths are present?
Spending time to spot your own character strengths will improve your strengths fluency so you are better prepared to spot the strengths in those you work with.
Spotting Strengths in Others
Character strengths are social. People will say it is far easier to spot strengths in others versus spotting strengths in themselves. Character strengths spotting gives you the opportunity to connect with others, validating the qualities that make them feel special. Strengths-spotting can happen at any time!
Here are three tips to keep in mind for effective strengths-spotting while you are working with others:
- Label: Name the strength you notice. What do you observe?
- Explain: Give an explanation for your observation. What were they doing when you noticed the strength?
- Appreciate: Express appreciation/affirmation. Why do you value that strengths expression?
When you label and explain the strength use, you are developing a common language of strengths with your clients, students or employees. It gives them an opportunity to think about their behavior in a new, positive way. Additionally, when you express appreciation for the strengths use, it deepens the experience, allowing the person to not only see, but to feel, that their strengths matter.
An On-Going Process
Strengths spotting, both interpersonally and intrapersonally, is not a process with a beginning and an end. Every day, you and your clients, students and employees are using a combination of strengths. Train yourself to always be on the lookout for strengths you are expressing, and the strengths you notice in your interactions and conversations with others.