by Jane Anderson
Do you regularly have strengths conversations? A strengths conversation is a simple discussion about your strengths or someone else’s. Many of us probably don’t have strengths conversations often enough. We tend to rush through the day and focus on what’s urgent but not necessarily important. It takes intention and commitment to shift our mindset to what’s strong, but it’s worth the effort.
In his book Mindfulness and Character Strengths: A Practical Guide to Flourishing, Ryan Niemiec of the VIA Institute summarizes numerous studies about the benefits of knowing and applying character strengths. He says that character strengths are linked to things we want more of in life, like greater happiness, work satisfaction, engagement, meaning, confidence, goal achievement, and vitality. Building strengths conversations into your daily routines can put you on the path to these and other positive outcomes.
There are virtually limitless ways to strike up strengths conversations. Below are a few examples in different settings.
In a Team Setting
Ask your team members to share examples of when they felt engaged or energized. Name the strengths they used. Brainstorm ways to apply these strengths on team tasks. Keep the conversation going each week and find new opportunities to apply strengths. Watch the energy, connection, and engagement amp up.
In a Social Setting
Spot strengths in your friend as he accomplishes something new or persists through a challenge. Tell him why you value those strengths. Notice how this brightens his day.
In a Family Setting
Start a strengths-spotting ritual at dinner time. Ask one family member to describe something that went well during the day and have the other family members name the strengths they noticed in that person. Make sure all family members get their strengths spotted. Feel the positivity boost within the whole family.
My #1 strength is Creativity, so I came up with my own strengths conversation starter. I found an artisan who crafts words from metal and asked him to create metal wall art of my immediate family members’ top strengths. You can see our top strengths below in the picture.
I mounted these metal works of art in the den, where we tend to gather with family and friends. When guests visit, they notice and ask about the significance of these words.
They are reminders of who we are individually and how we live as a family. Fairness and Kindness are strongly held values that tend to govern our interactions. Interestingly, two of us have Fairness as our #1 strength. Creativity helps us be flexible with each other. We each play a role in maintaining this family culture.
I like to ask my guests what resonates as their top strengths and why. In five minutes or less, we touch on each other’s unique capabilities. This short conversation is uplifting and infinitely more inspiring than one that begins with the question, “How are you?”
When and where can you begin a strengths conversation? Take a moment to write down a few ideas. Choose one and put it into action. Even if you’re not an enthusiastic conversationalist, you may find this a simple, positive way to connect with others.
Jane Anderson is one of the Keynote Speakers at the Embodied Positive Psychology Summit.
Jane Anderson is president of Strength Based Living, a business dedicated to harnessing what’s best, and author of 30 Days of Character Strengths, a guided strengths practice. A champion of positive change, she served as a teaching assistant for Wholebeing Institute and VIA courses and is a positive psychology practitioner, coach, and business consultant. Jane holds an MBA from DePaul University and a bachelor’s from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Find out more at strengthbasedliving.com.