Dr Ryan Niemiec is the Education Director at the VIA Institute on Character and in this interview, Ryan talks about his new book, The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality. The book is co-written with VIA Senior Scientist, Dr Robert McGrath, and guides you step-by-step through the 24 VIA character strengths, explaining what each strength is why it is important from a research perspective and gives examples about how you may wish to use them at work, in relationships or through personal reflection. The book is written in a way that people who are new to strengths or are experienced in the research into strengths can easily relate to what is written.

3 Key signature strengths features

VIA’s strengths survey has been taken by over 7 million people globally and consists of 24 character strengths, which are said to be consistent across countries, cultures, religions and philosophies. VIA suggest that your top 5 character strengths are your signature strengths and these have 3 key features in common. These 3 key features of your signature strengths are the 3 E’s:

Essential – the signature strength feels an essential part of you as a person

Effortless – when you are using the signature strength it can be easy to do, come naturally to you and may be a sign that you are in flow

Energising – using the signature can be energising to you and give you a buzz. It can also be quite uplifting

Click on the image below to watch the interview.


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During the interview, Ryan talks about the book in more detail, including the 4 week Strengths Builder programme to get you spotting strengths in other people, discovering your own strengths and applying them in your own life and then making strengths use a habit, in order for you to flourish.

Strengths over and underuse

He also discusses the underuse and overuse of strengths. Research by Hill suggested that only 30% of people were able to name their strengths, which is quite low and is also why people tend to underuse their strengths. If they aren’t aware of the things they enjoy doing, get energised by and perform well at, it is no surprise that they aren’t using them. Additionally, there is a tendency for people to focus on their weaknesses and to work on them. This may only lead to competence and not optimal performance or making someone happy.

Conversely, people need to be conscious of not overusing their strengths. For example, if you have a strength of humour there may be instances where you have taken a joke too far or if you have the strength of forgiveness, you may be too quick to be forgiving and people take advantage of that.

Ryan say that we need to find the ‘sweet spot’ of strengths us, where we are using our strengths in the right context and the right measure. This is also known as the ‘Golden Mean of Strengths Use’.

If you would like to find out what your top 5 signature strengths are, you can take the survey for free at the following link viacharacter.org

You can get your copy of The Power of Character Strengths: Appreciate and Ignite Your Positive Personality by ordering here

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