Find your superpower
What are your strengths and your weaknesses? This is a question most often heard from a recruiter’s mouth. But it’s a question that everyone should think about once in a while. Because you might be surprised by what you discover about yourself – if you keep an open mind.
A common misunderstanding is that strengths and weaknesses are opposites and an attribute can be exclusively just either or, a strength or a weakness. For example, people tend to think of shyness as a weakness when instead, in the right circumstances, shyness means being a very good listener and observer. And boy, do we need more of that.
Another example: Being analytical can sometimes mean getting stuck in your own head and over-thinking things. But as a researcher, having an analytical mindset is crucial. Understanding how things are related to each other and being able to plan ahead is a valuable attribute. So what might sometimes cause you grey hair, is actually what you need as a researcher.
The key is how you use your attributes, not what they actually are.
Organizational psychologist and author Adam Grant told a story in the New Yorker about a dinner party he attended. One of the guests was telling stories all evening long, without asking any questions of or engaging with the other guests. This is a very good example of when a strength can become a weakness. This particular person was not a narcissist, but a great performer and speaker. And he was misusing his greatest strength, because he did not understand what behavior the situation called for.
“Confidence comes from recognizing your strengths. But true power depends on knowing when and how to use those strengths.” (Adam Grant)
Personal note. I’ve always been told (in a negative tone) that I am too analytical and that I am too sensitive. But I’ve learned to turn these attributes into my strengths. Instead of getting stuck in my head, I am able to recognize that it is about to happen and practice psychological flexibility, which helps me take control of my thoughts. And instead of seeing sensitivity as something negative, I see it as a valuable strength. Being sensitive means being able to read people’s mood and understand individual differences in attitudes and behavior. Without these attributes, I would not be able to do the job I do.
So what is your biggest weakness? An attribute someone has told you should change and is keeping you from reaching your goals? What if you turn that weakness into a strength?
Boom! You have just found your superpower.
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