In my last post discussing the groundbreaking book, Breaking the Rules, by Kurt and Patricia Wright, we learned to reframe our old outmoded relationships to the belief that people actually have weaknesses, when in fact we only have strengths. Some strengths are baby strengths, to be sure, but any ability we have to do something connotes some level of strength. When I was a kid, I was none too good at baseball. I considered my lack of athletic prowess a huge weakness. But how could it be a weakness if I could run, jump, throw a ball, and swing a bat? Kurt and Patricia taught me to understand that all my suffering over my “lack” of athletic ability was for naught. While I certainly wasn’t major league material, I did have some level of strength as a baseball player. And so it goes in various permutations for every one of us. We are a LOT stronger than we think, because weaknesses do not exist. Only strengths exist. If you have your doubts, please re-read the last post. There’s just no question about it.
Identifying Strengths in Others
Now we’re going to build on that foundation by talking about the incredible benefits to be had by identifying strengths in others. It can bring about a permanent shift in your attention from your ‘lesser’ strengths to your ‘greater’ ones.
Let’s start by asking you to bring to mind two individuals (excluding your parents) for whom you have great admiration and respect. Jot down on paper at least five traits or attributes that you admire or respect for each person.
Now, reflecting on your parents, please write down one or two traits that you might have found most irritating.
Next, I’m going to show you an exciting way to identify our own true strengths. If you look at the list you just created of strengths you identified in others, each strength you recognize, admire, and respect in another is a direct reflection of one of your own greatest strengths. Putting it another way, we simply cannot recognize a strength in someone else that we, ourselves, do not already possess.
Qualities we admire and respect the most in others are a direct reflection of our own greatest strengths. We might as well be looking in a mirror when we’re paying attention to what we admire in others. Let me provide an example. Suppose we are in the Louvre and admiring a painting by one of the world’s greatest impressionists, like Claude Monet. There is no way we could appreciate Monet’s genius and skill at impressionism if we did not understand that art form. In fact, if we had no skill at appreciating and understanding impressionism, we would likely just walk by and wonder why Monet painted in such a blurry fashion. It takes strength to recognize strength!
This might take some doing, and as you reflect on the traits you admire in others, the more you can shift the attention to yourself, the easier it will be to recognize those strengths in yourself. The longer we stay at it, the more we will prize it for its amazing accuracy and great potential usefulness for us. Think of how much it can improve our own self-esteem and move us toward the state of effortless high performance.
The Payoffs From Praising
Now I want you to really start having fun with this. I want you to start a practice of recognizing and giving more verbal acknowledgement to others about their strengths. Think about the big difference in our intensity of involvement between just noticing a strength in someone, versus engaging in a conversation with them about that strength. The increased intensity speeds up the process of turning one of our smaller strengths into a larger one. Any one of our strengths will continue to grow stronger and healthier each time we notice that same strength in another and verbally acknowledge our appreciation of it to them. It creates a virtuous cycle with each increase in our ability to recognize and discuss strengths in others leading to an increase of that same strength in us. That increase in us makes it easier to spot the strength in others. And so it goes!
Every time we repeat this process, it allows the healthy self-image we are building to be even more effective at bringing our actions and behaviors into a natural and permanent alignment with those desired character strengths.
Whenever any of our own actions or behaviors is out of alignment with one or more aspects of our self-image, a certain natural tension develops to bring those actions and behaviors back into alignment. The more creative energy we are able to invest in this process, the more we strengthen the admired qualities inside ourselves.
There are huge dividends to be earned when we master the creative discipline of noticing and praising strengths and qualities we admire in other people. See what happens when you find a strength you admire in someone and say to them out loud, “I admire your….(quality). Would you please share with me how you developed that quality?” A slightly different approach might be to say, “I admire your….(quality). I especially admire that quality because…” The more we practice this discipline, the more comfortable we will be with it. .
Perhaps the most impressive quality that develops from a longtime practice of expressing admiration, appreciation and gratitude is the quality of charisma—that intangible force which draws other people to us because they feel good about themselves when they are around us. Kurt and Patricia Wright define charisma as “other-centeredness” firmly based in self-acceptance.
I absolutely love asking these questions because every single time I do, I learn a lot about the other person and about those qualities in myself. The person beams with pleasure and it is simply a wonderful and uplifting conversation in every way. Even if you begin to praise others quite stiffly, deliberately, and systematically, the new awareness you’ve acquired in this post will absolutely help you increase your own personal magnetism and charisma. Try it, I guarantee you’ll love it!