Thursday, March 30, 2017

Strengths Finder 2.0

About a month ago, I got to take the Strength Finder 2.0 test! Unfortunately, you have to either pay to take the test, or buy the book which comes with a code to take the test. I was lucky and got to take the test and get a copy of the book Strengths Finder 2.0 for free through a program at work.

Before I get into my own strengths, let me just say that I love the concept of this book! The book addresses straight-up how our society is always pressuring people to change, to "fix" themselves and become good at the things that we're not good at, rather than working at the things that we're already good at and are interested in. The book said that 77% of parents in the United States consider a child's least successful subject to be the most important area to focus on, rather than helping a child develop the areas in which they are talented. They're indifferent to a child being good at something, like being good at something is just a default condition, and they push their kids to be good at everything else instead. The strength finder program is about actually focusing on the things you're good at and developing those talents rather than trying to "fix" yourself to be something you're not.

I realized right away that the concepts in this book are very similar to what I talk about in one of the earliest chapters of the validation book. I talk about not trying to "fix" people, and not pushing anyone to be something that they haven't expressed an interest in being. I discuss the differences in the ways that we think about ourselves and others, about the reason why the MBTI is a much more accepting personality test than the Big Five, which has more social desirability embedded in it. I talk about what a difference in makes on your feelings when your results are on a scale between two equally desirable traits (like the MBTI) vs. being measured as something you either have or don't have (like the Big Five) and I encourage people to view other people's traits as a spectrum.

That is exactly what this test did. I'm used to taking tests that just give one statement to rate, such as "I am talkative" and you rate it from 1-5, "strongly disagree" to "strongly agree." I've also taken a few tests that put seemingly opposite statements across from each other, such as "I take a leadership role" and "I prefer to follow than lead" and you rate yourself between the two statements. But this test felt different - it put things against each other that did not even feel related. Sometimes it felt like I had to choose between "I like to stay up late" and "I want a pet armadillo." Sometimes I loved both choices, sometimes I hated both choices, a lot of times I had no idea what the two choices had to do with each other. It's interesting because whenever I'm taking a test where I have to rate myself on a scale of 1-5, I answer a lot of 1's and 5's. This test was probably the most 2's, 3's, and 4's that I've ever answered on a personality test, because even if I strongly agreed with a statement, I had to look at the opposing statement and decide whether I agreed with this statement so much that I was willing to strongly disagree with the other statement. I had to pick 3 everytime I didn't like either choice. I don't know quite how this all affected my final scores, although I'm sure it had an effect, I'm sure I might have come out totally different if I were answering each statement on its own, rather than opposite another statement.

But it makes me wonder if that was done on purpose as part of the strategy of finding strengths, if it's for the purpose of defining yourself as what you are instead of what you're not. Sort of like how I advise people to treat personality traits in the validation book, to say, "This person is more A than B," as opposed to just "This person is not B." Perhaps people are slightly inclined to give some points to every trait, to not say "strongly disagree" to anything, and putting two statements again each other sort of forces people to choose which one they like better. I wonder if for people who normal answer lots of 2's, 3's, and 4's on personality tests, this method actually made their results more extreme. I wonder if something about this method made it easier to pull out everyone's top 5 strengths, whereas letting everyone rate the statements individually would leave people being slightly good at a lot of the strengths. I'm not sure, but I'm curious if that's the reason.

The concept of this book is also very similar to my quiz book! I've said before that the intention of my quiz book is to help people gain self-knowledge without trying to "fix" anyone. All of the quiz results are meant to sound equally desirable, promote acceptance among friends with different personalities, and advise people on how to navigate the world as a person who answered the quiz the way that they did without pressuring them to be any different. It's not specifically about strength-finding, but the concept is similar. I love it when I see other books doing similar things to mine. That means I won't have to entirely carve out a place for myself in the self-help world that isn't already there. People are already leaning in this direction, even if it's not the majority of the culture yet.

So, here are my top five strengths:

1. Strategic
2. Empathy
3. Maximizer
4. Ideation
5. Developer

(The test only gives you a comprehensive look at your top five).

I'm not going to get into the descriptions of the traits in this post because I'm going to write separate blog posts about them. But I will say that I was really surprised. I expected to get empathy and ideation. I know that I am strategic, but there is no way I imagined that to be my top strength out of 34 possible strengths. I knew I was somewhat good at it, but I never imagined that it would make it all the way to the top. Developer was the same way - I've been told that I'm good at training people at work, but I don't think of myself as someone who is good at developing other people's talents. Not that I'm specifically not good at it, I just never stopped and thought about that as something I'm good at, and there's no way I would have predicted it to make the top five. Maximizer, I didn't know what it was before I took this test. That's my extra-special strength that I'll talk about in a separate post.

I've taken so many personality tests that sometimes I feel like I don't learn anything new - I feel like I'm just rereading all the stuff that I already knew. This test was totally different, and I actually learned a lot about myself.

I was surprised that I didn't get communication as a top strength since I write so much, and the description seemed to fit me, but that could still be a high trait that just didn't happen to make the top five cut. Maybe it's in the top ten.

I was also surprised that my work friend who did it with me - who is super validating and understanding and has always been so supportive of me - did not get empathy as a top strength. Again, it could have just not made the top five cut but still be in her top ten. But she did get another strengths that had to do with supporting people - "relator." It's fascinating because this friend has always felt like such a kindred spirit to me that I assumed we had similar personalities and would have at least one trait in common, but we didn't. I'm going to be interested to read about the differences between empathy and relator.

When we met with the class of ten people who took the assessment, we went around the room and each shared our traits and mapped them on a grid, so we could see what strengths everyone else had. Empathy was my most popular trait - 4 of us in the group had it (4 was the maximum number of people who had any given trait). 3 of us had strategic, 2 of us had developer, and I was the only one who had maximizer and ideation.

Most of the advice was work-related, but I want to apply all of these strengths to my personal life. Stay tuned for more posts about specific traits.


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