I was thinking about a scene from the TV show Billions in which Wendy Rhodes, the inhouse psychologist at Axe Capital, in a session with an employee, lays out three reasons why people choose to have a relationship – because they see something of themselves in the other person, see something they lack that the other person has or thirdly, the other person has something they want to use. Firstly, a simple insight from those reasons – what one considers a personal strength, weakness or useful strength are all in the eyes of the beholder. What one person sees as a strength may be viewed by another as a weakness. You may feel that your height is a strength but a horse jockey may be scorning your misfortune for being tall.
Secondly, as David Rendall (author of the Freak Manifesto) said, strengths and weaknesses do not come in servings of one – they are always served in pairs (at the very least). Each weakness has at least one corresponding strength; and, each strength has at least one corresponding weakness (examples below).
When you put those two insights together, you can beat yourself up on your weaknesses or beat your chest on your strengths. Either way, you could be right or wrong depending on the situation and who you are ‘dancing’ with. Things are rarely black and white – what you consider weakness could be perceived by another person as strength. Let’s take a look at some material put together by Rendall that is very educational on that point.
Let us start with weaknesses that you beat yourself about first - people remember 4 times more weaknesses than strengths, and most bosses, HR folks, parents and coaches dwell on fixing weaknesses much more than leveraging strengths.
Here are typical weaknesses (on the left) of people along with corresponding strength (on the right) – compliments of Rendall. Depending on the situation and the person, they may see one (what you see as a weakness) or the other (the strength).
How many of these ‘weaknesses’ do you have and are you now willing to consider the strength version of that trait? As Rendall points out, strengths are hidden in your weaknesses.
Now let’s look at some typical strengths and corresponding weakness twins (also from Rendall). Which of these strengths do you see in yourself, and have you considered the weakness angle shown on the right.
If your weakness is indeed a weakness in your situation, it is difficult to change or fix it quickly. On the other hand, if you are thinking of a strength which is considered by the other party as a weakness, you are in trouble – quickly. Life is full of paradoxes – grey areas where the solution depends on the situation. The best judge of the situation is you. But how do you develop good judgement? Well, with experience. How do you gain experience? Well, by trying a lot (and maybe failing a lot). So, unless you get out there and put yourself in many uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations, you may never know your strengths and weaknesses, and the situations where each one could be parlayed differently.