Strengths – reminders of the positives in ourselves and others

Posted: 15/06/2015

My daughter laughed when I bought my Strength Cards. She said, ‘You’ve always wanted your own, haven’t you?’ She had been using the Strength Cards in a therapeutic setting. My other daughter could tell me the pictures on some of the cards because her teacher had the Strength Cards at school. When I named a strength, such as ‘resilient’, she’d remember, ‘Oh yeah, it had a chicken with a broken wing crossing the road.’resilient

I wanted to keep the cards handy as I’m an emergency teacher. But I especially wanted to have them for home. With seven people in our household we can easily become focussed on what we find annoying about each other. So it’s good to do something every now and then to remind us of the positives in those around us— and ourselves.

The day my Strength Cards arrived, I put up A4 sheets of papers, one with each family member’s name, on a sliding door in our kitchen passageway. It’s a high traffic area in our house. Then I blu-tacked a large selection of Strength Cards onto the door, so people could place the strengths next to individual names to recognise the strengths of family members.

It was very popular and successful too. I was able to speak to the kids individually about strengths and about family member’s strengths without needing to gather the whole family for a meeting. People could move the cards around while they were walking past— it didn’t take any effort or time.

Putting up the cards in a busy pedestrian area also meant that people were constantly reminded of the strengths that other family members saw in them. We could give and receive positive messages without having to do it face to face! And I could highlight when family members used their strengths by saying something like ‘That’s very resilient of you. Do you have that strength card next to your name? Why don’t you go and put it there?’

We had some simple rules to support our focus on personal strengths. For example, it was OK to let people know which strengths you put next to their names, but you didn’t have to. It was also OK to move a card from one person’s name to another, but only after the first person had seen the card and knew that someone had recognised that strength in them. It was even OK to put strengths next to your own name. The one action that wasn’t permitted was to take away a strength from someone’s name because you disagreed that they had demonstrated it. After all, someone else had thought that strength should be there!

It was a great activity which I plan to do again. I currently have just one strength on the door, where family members can reflect on it as they pass. I can use it to draw people’s attention to times when that strength is used or required. ‘Resilient’ is the current one.

This lovely story was sent in to us by Denise McDonough

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