My mother recently took the CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder) assessment. It was an “AHA” moment for both of us when we saw the results! I (Clare) started to link some of her behaviours to her talents, and thought it’d be interesting to use them as a case study for this article on strengthening relationships. Can you guess which StrengthsFinder talent theme is portrayed in the descriptions below?
- When I was contemplating pursuing a PhD or Masters degree overseas, she asked all kinds of questions about my living arrangements such as location, transport, facilities, and housemates.
- She remains quiet, shakes her head, or avoids my eyes when I tell her a decision I’d made without letting her know my thought processes.
- When I decided to travel solo to Bali (something she had initially discouraged me to do), I let her know details of my travel plans. This went a long way in convincing her that I could travel solo. I gave her a full run-through of my itinerary: From the moment I land in Bali to the time I get on my flight back to Singapore, the name of the driver, the places I’d visit, the restaurants I’d like to eat at, how I’d travel around without a driver, the distances between my hotel and the places of interest, and what I’ll do to ensure my own safety.
- No matter how many times I travel, she’d remind me without fail before each trip to bring my passport and sling my pouch across the front of my body so that my belongings will not be stolen.
How Perceptions Impact Relationships
Some of you may have guessed by now, that my mother’s top talent is Deliberative.
Before knowing her StrengthsFinder results, I saw my mother’s cautiousness and constant reminders as a lack of trust in my ability to take care of myself, or being unsupportive especially when I wanted to embark on something new. As you probably know, such negative perceptions can strain relationships.
With her StrengthsFinder results, I saw how her caution covers all ground and helps me to plan for the unexpected. As a result, she indirectly compels me to put more thought into my plans. For example, she recently suggested how I can re-plan my Melbourne road trip route due to concerns over fatigue. I’d have underestimated my susceptibility to fatigue in my plans if not for her uncanny ability to identify risk.
I now see that going through the details of my plans and decisions with my mother is a win-win situation. It allows me to help her to understand my decisions better, and also allows her to refine my decisions. Putting on the strength-lens helped me to understand where my mother is coming from. When another person’s talent is appreciated and accepted, this can help strengthen relationships.
How Do You View Your Own or Others’ Talents?
We can view strengths positively or negatively, i.e. from the balcony or the basement. Talents are our natural patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. In and of themselves, they are neither positive nor negative. Rather, our perceptions of talents make them positive or negative. Do you tend to view your own or others’ talents from the balcony, or from the basement? If it’s the basement, how may you shift such that you get a balcony view? How can you apply this knowledge to strengthen your relationships?