Ever found yourself dealing with a difficult colleague or client at work?
You know who I’m talking about. They’re the person who despite your friendliest efforts, always seem to make your relationship more awkward, more complicated and more work.
Of course you can try channeling your strengths to make your interactions with this person a little easier. The best way however to turn these difficult relationships around is to start spotting the strengths in that person.
I know this may feel like the last thing you want to do right now, but trust me it will save you a lot of wasted frustration and effort.
Why does can this one small act transform your relationships?
Looking for the strengths in others creates a bridge of empathy over which we can come to respect our differences.
How can you put this to work?
I tested this approach several years ago when working for a boss I didn’t really get along with. Here is how I put spotting, understanding and respecting her strengths into action.
Firstly, instead of turning up for meetings looking for all the things she did that annoyed me, I decided to start hunting for her strengths.
It didn’t take too long to see she lit up like a Christmas tree when she was setting down plans, agreeing on milestones, and making sure we were diligently delivering. It soon became clear prudence was one of her top strengths.
Secondly, I took the time to understand more about this strength and how it might impact our relationship.
People high in the strength of prudence are careful, cautious and conscientious. They think before they act, consider all the consequences and are practical in their decisions and plans.
On the other hand, one of my top strength is creativity. I love coming up with new ways to do things and am never content with doing something in the conventional way, if I think there’s a better way to get it done.
You can imagine as we sat in meetings together, my boss would try and make sure we were carefully following the plan, while I kept offering new ways to improve things. It’s no wonder she thought I was flighty, or that I thought she was a stick in the mud. It was simply a case of our strengths colliding.
Finally, I began to respect, value and appreciate the diversity of our strengths.
By understanding more about my boss’ top strength, I came to realize she wasn’t behaving this way to annoy me. She was honoring what she did best.
This melted away the personal animosity in our relationship and created a space for me to be able to value the use of her prudence to ensure the project stayed on track. It also helped me have a conversation with her about my strength of creativity and the best way to use this to support the project, without undermining the plan.
Now we didn’t suddenly become best friends, but it did make our relationship a lot easier to navigate as we each came to trust we were respected for our strengths.
How are you spotting and appreciating the strengths in your most difficult relationships at work?
To learn about your top character strengths, take the free VIA Survey.
About Michelle McQuaid:
Michelle McQuaid is a best-selling author, workplace well-being teacher and playful change activator. An honorary fellow at Melbourne University’s Graduate School of Education, her work has been featured in Forbes, the Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Boss Magazine, The Age, Women’s Agenda, Wellbeing Magazine and more.
She holds a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently completing her PhD in Appreciative Inquiry under the supervision of David Cooperrider.