Thursday, September 04, 2008

Drawing on strengths

From time to time I teach young students at our local community college.  They are bright and energetic and full of plans and hope.  And they are heartbreakingly fresh and new and vulnerable.

Today I asked my class to interview each other to discover strengths.  It took less than five minutes for the first person to ask if they should also discover weaknesses. It also took less than five minutes for me to demonstrate that if they truly focused on discovering strength they would not have to worry about managing weaknesses.

Still - every group in the room was following the same pattern, knowing strength by weakness.  It takes energy and focus and good will to keep them on track for noticing that they are already strong and that collectively they are even stronger.

I understand the argument that by knowing our weaknesses we can somehow compensate for them and keep ourselves safe.  I understand that every personality typing scheme makes allowances for people who need to move away from, who crave negatives.  I am not sure I buy in anymore.

Watch what happens when you focus someone's attention, repeatedly and precisely, on the specific ways in which they are strong.  Then tell me that some people just like to wallow in fear. If you can still make that argument.

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