One of the great strengths of Positive Psychology is the strong scientific basis it has in helping us to find ways to live life to the full and flourish. But it doesn’t solely deal with the positive, the research can also be used to help us deal with the negative things in our lives too. One way in which this happens is through research and application of our strengths.

The value of strengths

A strength is a core psychological facet that comes from deep within us and it is widely recognised that we often use our strengths when we do things that we love, in fact feeling energised and immersed in a task is a sure sign that we are using our strengths. Using our strengths may even be intuitive, we feel relaxed and comfortable when we are doing it. It doesn’t seem to take a lot of effort. For example, two of my top strengths are curiosity and love of learning which are closely entwined. When I know something I want to understand it further, how did it occur? Why did it occur? What would happen if …..? Studying new Positive Psychology research is a great way of indulging these strengths.

Approach not avoidance

Now one of the negative things that I try to avoid is confrontation. For me this is a real energy sapper, so I try to use my strengths to counter this.

Whilst I dislike confrontation, I love discussion and debate. I apply my strengths of curiosity and love of learning to turn the avoidance of confrontation into an approach situation. It is normal in life to experience a difference of opinion with family, friends, colleagues and even strangers. For progress to take place, for situations to develop, it is healthy to have a difference of opinion as alternative options need to be presented and discussed to find the best possible outcome.

So my challenge is to use my strength of curiosity to explore another person’s point of view. To ask them questions about their viewpoint, what is its background? Where do they see it heading? This can be a delicate balance to achieve if that person sees my questions as disagreement and not curiosity. They may feel that they need to defend their position which could potentially escalate the confrontation. So how can I achieve this? Maybe by using another strength which is fairness.

The VIA Institute on Character states that fairness includes:

‘Justice reasoning which emphasizes logic and weighing principles to determine moral rights and responsibilities.

Care reasoning which includes empathy and compassion; the ability to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes.’


Potentially by using the strength of fairness effectively I would show empathy and even-handedness which would mean that the person with whom I was having (or avoiding having) the confrontation with, would feel heard and valued. They would feel less need to be defensive and would have the time to make their point fully. In addition, I would learn a lot by listening carefully to what they had to say and I would be given the opportunity to consider things from a novel viewpoint, utilising my strength of curiosity and not my dread of confrontation.

Yet another way to tackle the negative.

About the author: To find out more about Bryony Shaw MAPP, please click here.


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