Your Greatest Weaknesses Are Also Your Greatest Strengths

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Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

I was having a little chat on Facebook this week with some friends about the most common things I say to clients in my office and then it struck me: I’ve failed to blog about one of my most common Darcy-isms!  Well today that changes because I’m letting you in on one of my most strongly held beliefs and principles: Your greatest weaknesses are nothing more than your greatest strengths, albeit, dialed up too high and in the wrong environment. Let me explain:

I always use myself as an example so let me start with that: I’m a very direct person. I speak from the heart and I don’t veil my feelings or thoughts in a bunch of words. I think it and I say it. For better or worse. Now in my office, that trait is definitely a strength. It’s the reason why people come to me instead of going to a traditional therapist who is likely to nod and stay quiet during sessions. My outspoken nature is the thing that sets me apart. That very thing that is a strength at work becomes a liability at home if I don’t dial it down. If I walk into my home and allow myself to speak every thought that comes into my head without using a filter, my wife isn’t going to be happy I’m going to have domestic problems. I have to dial down my greatest strength at home because it can easily become my greatest weakness.

Let’s take another example.  A family friend asked me to speak to his son who was in his early 20’s at the time because he was having difficulties at work. He wasn’t getting along with people on his team and my friend was concerned that his son might be arrogant. I spoke to the son for an hour before I realized what was going on: The son grew up on the East Coast and went to an Ivy League School. He’d been an over achiever his entire life and he’d achieved great success by being outspoken and a go-getter. Now he was working on the West Coast where values were different and his outspoken ways did indeed appear to be arrogant to his co-workers. And so he needed to dial down his greatest strength at work so it would not become a huge weakness.

We all have character strengths and believe it or not, they are measurable. If you were to measure your greatest strengths (I’m going to tell you how at the end of this post) and send them to me along with a story of a problem you’re having in your life, I can explain to you how one of your greatest strengths is simply dialed up too high and it’s causing the problem you’re having. So why is this important?

It’s important because it means that most of us are not crazy. We’re not deficient in some way. We don’t lack character, in fact, it’s our character strengths that are dialed up too high which cause our problems. And it’s a lot easier to dial something down than it is to build a new skill. It makes life a whole lot easier when we view what’s wrong as a strength rather than as pathology which is how so many professionals in my field view interpersonal difficulties.

So here’s your homework / challenge: Measure your strengths by clicking here, select Questionnaires and take the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. Send me the results along with a brief story of an area in your life that’s giving you problems and I’ll explain to you which of your strengths is causing the difficulty. You get this for free because I’m going to post it on my blog. Happy Friday!