Families are complicated…and some more complicated than others. The people closest to us see the best and the worst of us, and vice versa. Yet even though our family members are such familiar figures in our lives, at times it feels like they’re the biggest mystery of all – particularly when conflicts arise. Could the Gallup StrengthsFinder 2.0 profiling tool help to strengthen family relationships? Here are 3 reasons to use StrengthsFinder with your family.
Reason #1: It helps you understand your family members on a deeper level.
I’ve always known that my mother has an incredible stamina and drive. As a kindergartener, I remember attending her Ph.D. graduation ceremony: she singlehandedly raised me and my younger brother while completing her doctorate in Computer Science. (My dad was mostly overseas for work.) Now that she’s in her late 50’s, she works full time at an MNC as a senior software engineer – and in her free time, she builds, renovates, and sells houses for fun.
Frankly, we never really understood where she gets all the energy from. My dad often complains in his typical Chinese-father fashion, “aiya, relax lah!”
But when she took the StrengthsFinder assessment and Achiever turned up in her Top 5, we began to understand where that “internal fire” and stamina came from. While some people would feel energized by brainstorming sessions or making a new friend, my mother feels energized by ticking items off her to-do list.
We also became a lot more intentional about not taking each other for granted, and communicating appreciation whenever we see each other’s strengths contributing positively to the family.
For example, I now make it a point to pay attention to the number of things my mother gets done around the house, and communicate that I appreciate the time and energy she puts in. I know that the primary way that she conveys love for each of us is by helping us get stuff done, so I want her to know that I value the heart behind the actions.
I also make it a point to affirm my brother, who has Analytical and Deliberative as his top strengths, for the detailed charts and analyses he writes out for us. He works as a financial analyst in a U.S. firm, and often contributes to the family by updating us on the best funds to invest in. (As I’m totally clueless about mutual funds and financial planning, I appreciate the clarity and detail in his explanations!)
One of the tenets of the StrengthsFinder philosophy is about catching people doing right. When we understand the Top 5 themes of each of our family members, it gives us a solid foundation to get to know how our family members are wired on a very instinctive level. Subsequently, we also learn how each of them uniquely contribute to the family, and we develop a newfound appreciation and respect for their strengths.
Reason #2: It gives you a common language to navigate conflicts.
Case in point. Recently (and in large part due to my influence), my mother decided to upgrade her Top 5 strengths profile to reveal the order of her 34 strengths.
The results were illuminating…and explained two decades’ worth of arguments.
We discovered that 3 of her Top 10 strengths were in my bottom 10, and 3 of my Top 10 strengths were in her bottom 10.
And not only that – when we compared our Top 10 strengths profiles, 5 out of our 10 strengths were polar opposites. For example, my non-confrontational Harmony strength clashed with her extremely confrontational Command strength, and my need for order and structure (Discipline) clashed with her need for variety and novel ways of doing things (Ideation).
This means that we’re basically on opposite ends of the spectrum in the way that we see the world, like yin is to yang or liberals are to conservatives.
It also means that sometimes we could get into an argument over the most minor things. Going out to dinner with her could result in an explosive argument and lots of hurt feelings…much less going on a week-long vacation together!
Over the years, the tension kept building up. Eventually, I started to believe that was the way things were always going to be with us, and I didn’t see much hope in that dynamic ever changing.
Then one day I heard a friend of mine talk about how StrengthsFinder could decipher the innate wiring and motivations of each person and subsequently give you a research-backed framework to strengthen relationships.
I’d heard about StrengthsFinder before, but to be honest, I couldn’t see how it could be applied to relationships beyond just being “good information to know.” It’s one thing to find out that your loved one is the total opposite of you. It’s quite another to know what to do with that info to resolve longstanding issues and rebuild trust and intimacy.
So when I was listening to my friend talk about StrengthsFinder and how it could help relationships, I was intrigued.
You see, what I realized was that often what we value most about our loved ones are also the very things that frustrate us most.
My mom has always been a formidable woman: sharp, insightful, hardworking, and able to see through all sorts of nonsense and navigate around obstacles to lead her team bravely forward. I attribute her incredible stamina to her Achiever theme, her no-nonsense and take-charge approach to her Command theme, and her ability to maneuver around obstacles and come up with new ways of doing things to her Strategic and Ideation theme.
But the same characteristics that made her such a strong role model in my life also made her an intimidating and difficult person to be around at times.
As a child, when I needed her to be gentle and comforting, she remained no-nonsense and take-charge. When I needed her to empathize with my feelings, she’d tell me I was being oversensitive. When I needed her to simply listen, she’d use logic to deconstruct my entire perspective and tell me how it was inaccurate.
When I grew older and learned to value her for the mother that she was and not the mother that I needed her to be, things began to change for the better. But it was still an uphill climb to try to mend the rift already present between us, especially when we were still getting into arguments every time we spent an extended period of time with each other.
So how did StrengthsFinder come into play? I think the single biggest factor that helped us work through conflicts together was realizing the needs of each strength.
For example, when my mom would become confrontational and say things that were very blunt and cutting, I realized that it was because of her Command theme: she needed to have clarity on whatever issue we were arguing about, and she believed the best way to protect the relationship was to not sweep things under the carpet.
My Harmony, however, confronts only when absolutely necessary, preferring instead to find areas of agreement so that we would be united as a family. It’s not that I want to bury important issues; it’s that even in the process of discussing very raw areas, I want everybody to be clear on what our goals are as a family and what each person needs from the others.
Previously, I’d always thought that she was so confrontational because she was insensitive to people’s feelings, and she always thought that I avoided tough conversations because I didn’t want to deal with deeper issues in the family. Once we understood what we both needed in the relationship, we were better equipped to navigate through arguments.
(By the way, if you're interested, we've also written about how StrengthsFinder can be used to strengthen marriages.)
Reason #3: It provides practical handles on how to create more meaningful family bonding opportunities.
Because our StrengthsFinder talent themes are such deeply-rooted parts of our personalities, the activities we derive the most fulfillment from are often determined by our unique compositions of strengths.
For example, as a Relator with Learner and Input in my dominant talent themes, I enjoy times during which I get to know my loved ones on a much deeper level. I naturally tend to observe and collect information about those I care about, and I get excited when I discover a new nugget in how they think, feel, and behave. I want to know their deepest hopes, dreams, and fears, and I want them to know mine. Because of my talent themes, the family occasions I enjoy most are the ones during which we have deep discussions that reveal a new, previously unexplored facet of a loved one’s personality.
But what is deemed a 10/10 experience differs from person to person. For example, my mom, who has Ideation and Achiever in her Top 5, most enjoys family occasions in which she gets to explore new sights and do new things together with us. On family vacations, she enjoys planning new activities that we can all do together, and she enjoys trying the new cuisines and being exposed to different cultures.
Concluding Thoughts: While the Gallup StrengthsFinder tool is powerful for increasing productivity, fulfillment, and employee engagement in a work setting, I’ve found that the single greatest benefit it’s brought to my life is in giving me practical handles to strengthen my core relationships. Intrigued by how it could help you, or had a similar experience with StrengthsFinder? I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section below!