Strengths-focused Dialog and Community Stress

An example of Strengths-focused Dialog being helpful in the event of community stress

For some US residents, November 9, 2016 was a day of mourning. It was for me. People mourned different aspects of Hillary Clinton’s losing her bid for the white house. I mourned what might be my first, last, and only opportunity to see a woman become president of the United States.

At the moment I saw the writing on the wall, I shouted at the television set like an insane person, “I do not want the pussy-grabber to beat the nice lady!” With tears pouring down my cheeks, wearing a white pantsuit in celebratory anticipation of electing the first woman president, I became physically ill from the disappointment. It was hard to get out of bed after a sleepless night. I couldn’t think straight. I kept breaking out in tears. I could tell from my Facebook “news” feed that I was far from the only person feeling disappointed.

It was a coincidence that we had scheduled a group Strengths-focused Dialog for that day. When I saw it on my calendar, I thought it would be hard to pull it off, feeling so sick and defeated. By that time, I had heard from other people in the group that they were feeling very stressed out about the election results. A group Strengths-focused Dialog has a simple format: get together on Skype to share positive moments and reflect on strengths. Would it just feel like a sham? I guessed it was the best possible test of our method. I had rarely ever felt worse.

All five scheduled participants made it to the call. That affirmed that there was hope based on each participant’s prior experience, that the meeting would be positive or helpful in some way. We spent more than the usual amount of time saying hello and checking in, sharing feelings of sadness and loss. Then, we began our simple practice. We scanned our recent hours for moments when our moods had been a little better, no matter how little or how briefly.

One by one, each participant spoke. That night, there was a shared theme of human intimacy. One person talked about a visit to the eye doctor. She said the staff looked downhearted when she walked in, but she lifted their spirits by sharing her courage. Another person talked about having a repair scheduled in her apartment that day. She did not know who the repairman had voted her, but when he saw how bereft she was, he gave her a warm, reassuring hug. I shared that I had reassured my 16-year-old nephew, who posted on Facebook that he was “devastated” that his generation had voted in overwhelming numbers for inclusion, dignity, and mutual respect. We articulated strengths of caring, love, and perseverance.

At the end of our hour, we were able to recall positive moments much more easily. Little moments of enjoyment started to flow forth. We checked in again, noticing that we were feeling better.

How simple and elegant.                 Jennifer Rose