If you’re in the UK right now, it’s been difficult to avoid a couple of things in recent weeks. First, the phrase ‘strong and stable’. Second, the sense that while strong and stable may be what we need, it isn’t what we’ve got. On the contrary, all the instability and turbulence surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU, the lack of a majority government, and the horrific events of the past few weeks, have left everyone feeling uncertain.
So if we can’t rely on those in power to give us certainty, clarity and stability at the moment, where else can we look? What we see in our work around strengths with individuals, teams and organisations is that understanding and using your strengths, as well as drawing in the strengths of others, breeds confidence and positivity, particularly when times are tough. But it takes focus, courage and self-belief to bring these strengths to bear when we’re faced with uncertainty.
So what can you do? There are some simple steps you can take right now:
1. Remember to stretch your strengths every day.
Once you understand your strengths (what energises you and what you are great at, or have the potential to become great at), put them to work. Offer your strengths to help others. At work and outside of work. Be confident to take on new challenges using those qualities which energise you and where you can bring value. Be bold. Take a risk. It will be worth it and others will appreciate it.
Think about the aftermath of the Grenfell tower disaster and the recent terrorist attacks and the countless stories of people reaching out to give others strength by offering their own. This takes courage, compassion and willingness to take a risk. But it can make a huge difference to others.
2. Recognize and appreciate the strengths of others.
Everyone has different strengths. When you see these in action, when someone does something that you are impressed by, even in awe of, tell them. Recognize that person’s strengths and tell them how they made a difference and how that makes them different. They may be surprised, perhaps even dismissive. So tell them again. Reinforcing strengths is so important to building others’ positivity and confidence.
Following on from the general election, negativity abounds: people criticizing each other’s views, strategies, beliefs, behaviour, even appearance. All this makes the differences between us sound like a bad thing, when actually difference brings true strength, as long as we stay open-minded to understanding the nature of those differences and how that brings value. By way of example, I was talking to my nine-year old yesterday after he had attended a session at school on disability and he proposed a replacement word for ‘disability’: ‘diffability’. When I asked him to explain, he said, ‘well some people with disabilities don’t like the ‘dis’ because it makes it sound as though they can’t do certain things. But disabled people just have different abilities to other people and those abilities are often amazing’. So let’s recognise and celebrate difference rather than demonizing it.
3. Encourage others to do the same.
Leading by example by following steps 1 and 2 will make a difference within your own sphere of influence. Talking about what you’re doing and the effect it’s had on others will give other people confidence and license to do the same. And that can create a viral effect that can reach far beyond you and those in your immediate network. We’re social animals, we’re easily influenced by what others do and say. So make the things that you do and say positive, appreciative and meaningful and watch them snowball.
It’s never been easier to spread the word about something – how many social media channels do we have to tell a story, pass on a message, even start a movement? Look at how successful Macron in France and Corbyn in the UK have been in galvanizing support for their message through social media and gaining a following of many millions. So whatever cause you want to champion, whatever message you want to pass on, however you want to pay it forward, do it with positivity, do it wholeheartedly and do it today.
Think this is all too ‘happy clappy’, too Utopian, that it won’t make any real difference in the world? Give it a go and let us know if it doesn’t work. And if it does. We can be reached on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. What are you waiting for?
Dr Paul Brewerton