Finding the Right Words: An Experience of Strengths Articulation 


Finding the Right Words: An Experience of Strengths Articulation in a Strengths-focused (S-f) Dialog

 

Jerald and I advise people to participate in regular S-f Dialogs, and we are looking for effective ways to communicate their value to Strengths Articulation and cultivating a more Positive Identity. We thought an example might help to clarify what it is like to have an S-f Dialog and how it is beneficial.

 

I just got off of a Strengths-focused Dialog call. It was one of those really good ones. To briefly review how an S-f Dialog works, partners take turns practicing the basic 2-step process of describing a Positive Moment and Articulating a Strength related to that moment. If the dialog participants know each other and the process well, a partner might suggest strengths to consider after hearing about a Positive Moment.

Here is the positive moment I described to my dialog partner:

I was out for a stroll, and I found myself imagining going one way, and later realizing I had gone another. About halfway down the block, I thought to myself, “That’s odd, I meant to cross the street back there.” I decided to carry on, rather than turning back. About a block and a half later, I was walking past a home that had a lot of bird feeders in its parking strip. I slowed down to look at, and listen to, the little birds. Soon, a kind of nervous scratching sound caught my attention, and noticed a squirrel that was caught in a live trap.

I felt a shock of sadness for the helpless squirrel. Then, I made some guesses about the situation. The trap was probably not meant for the squirrel, more likely a rat. The resident, based on the bird feeders and live trap, was probably an animal lover. I went to the front door, and rang the doorbell. I anxiously hoped that someone was home.

Before too long, I could see a man coming barefooted down the stairs in a bathrobe. Our conversation confirmed that he had been trying to catch a different critter, and he would free the squirrel right away. It was very dear to see an unknown neighbor barefoot in a bathrobe. I appreciated his trust of me and our shared values in this brief encounter. I was very relieved for the squirrel!  

After I described this experience, I articulated positive feelings of caring, connection, trust, and gladness. My dialog partner offered the phrase “providing stewardship” to describe a possible strength he heard. “Yes!” I emoted right away. It felt so good to be heard, to be seen, and to have one of my best qualities reflected back to me through just the right word. It was the first time I had thought of myself as a steward, but I knew right away that this description was a good fit.

I had memories of experiences I both valued and enjoyed that this word described well, and the word made good sense of how I was holding the positive moment I had described. So many of my favorite experiences have been in nature. I treasure moments when animals give me their trust and I prove worthy of it, like the time I camped on the Pacific Crest Trail and spent a cherished hour watching the sun rise with marmot. Like the time I bought crackers for an injured pigeon on 5th Avenue. The word “steward” brought a string of happy associations. I had not thought of these experiences all together before.

Immediately, I was looking into my future with a new eagerness and curiosity, wondering when I would have another opportunity to be a steward, wondering how many ways there are of being a steward, and how many of them would bring me the kind of feelings I had enjoyed during the positive moment I had shared. Now I have an opportunity to make this strength a more conscious part of my identity. I am looking forward to elaborating on this strength (Step 4), by reflecting on experiences in which I used this strength, and articulating its unique, personal meaning. Clarifying my meaning is a further step in making this strength part of my positive identity. It also helps me communicate the about my strength with others.

--by Jennifer