Me: How did the interview go?
Client: It went quite well.
Me: Wow, you must have really known your stuff.
Client: No, not really. I'm just good at interviews.
Me: I'm just good at interviews? Way to minimize your talent. As I see it, you know your stuff and make a really good presentation because you're talented, professional and competent.
Likely strengths for this person: social intelligence, love of learning, judgment
I hear stuff like the following often:
Me: How was the test?
Client: I did really well...it was easy.
Me: Did everyone do really well?
Me: Well, then it couldn't have been that easy, could it? It was easy because you knew it, understood it or studied it.
Likely strengths for this person: diligence, self-control, critical thinking
If you go through this process many times yourself, you can start to identify your strengths. And while you're at it, take some credit for your successes.
Yes, sometimes things don't go too well. Take divorce, a great equalizer and most humbling experience. Speaking as one knowledgeable from both personal and professional experience, I know many people who have taken the divorce experience and moved their lives forward in surprising and often remarkable ways. The ability to bounce back is a personal strength. If you've got that strength, bravo. If not, figure out what strengths you have. See if you can use them to move yourself ahead.
Positive, strength-based reactions to divorce I've seen:
Use your zest for life to throw yourself into your career.
Love excitement and challenge? Use curiosity and bravery to travel for a while or take a transfer with your company to a new city.
Is nesting your thing? Use your creativity to redo your living space to make it yours and help the kids feel more comfortable with the newness.
It's not conceited or narcissistic to acknowledge our strengths and consciously try to use those strengths. Knowing your strengths tells you what kind of work you're likely to excel at, how to set goals to fit your abilities and what tools you can use when faced with challenge.
Figure out how you can use your strengths in new ways. For those who woo (win others over), use your people skills for your favorite candidate's election campaign or fundraiser. Maybe your colleague would appreciate the use of your organizational skills in his office for an hour or two. Were you the class clown? Use your humor and playfulness. Call a friend whose been down in the dumps and brighten their day with your unparalleled ability to make their most recent ill-fated romance seem like a Saturday Night Live skit.
To find out more about your signature strengths, go to www.authentichappiness.com and take the VIA (Values in Action) Signature Strengths Questionnaire. It's free and you can learn a little more about your strengths. You can also ask people who know you well. They're often better at identifying our strengths that we are.
Sure you've got strengths; identify them, relish them and try to stretch a little with them. It makes moving forward a lot easier and more fun.