Ever been asked “What are your strengths?” It’s a great question, but it can sometimes feel awkward to answer as our culture often shames folks who flaunt their own skills. So, what should you say? What sort of answer are they looking for? While you’ll definitely want to reflect on this for yourself, you can also use others’ experiences to complement your approach.
The Reflected Best Self (RBS) is a powerful exercise that provides a 360-degree view of your strengths. As you enter a reflective time of year, using this approach can help you examine the impact you’ve made on people in various aspects of your life. At the end of this exercise, you will be able to answer the question “When am I at my best?” and better see your strengths from an outsider’s perspective.
Ready to jump in?
1. Make a list of eight to 10 people from different contexts in your life who would be able to provide a specific example of when you’ve been at your best. Make sure to diversify the people you ask. For instance, you could consider friends, family, co-workers, mentors, coaches, teachers, or supervisors.
2. Ask each person on this list one simple question: “Can you describe a time or times that you have seen me at my best?” Make sure to keep this question open-ended. This will give your responder the opportunity to be specific about times you’ve demonstrated strengths. Pro tip: Consider creating a standard online form to collect your responses.This might seem awkward – that is okay. To lessen the awkward feeling, you could offer to do the same for them so that you both benefit.
3. Once you collect all your responses, start looking for patterns in their responses. In most cases, there will be themes where responders mention a similar skill. This could be interpersonal skills such as empathy in conversations or a hard skill like creating a presentation for a class. Pro tip: You can create a chart to help you gather these in one spot. Consider making separate columns for the theme, when it happened, who shared the theme, and any interpretations or comments you may have on this theme.
4. Create a “self-portrait.” This is where you combine your internal reflections on your own strengths with the themes from your external responders. To create this self-portrait, write a two-to-three-paragraph declaration. Start with the statement “When I am at my best, I…” Use the following space to succinctly outline times you’ve been at your best and what you’ve done in those moments. It’s important to write this down for two reasons. First, research shows that writing something down helps it imprint on our brain (so you don’t forget it mid-interview). Second, you now have a great resource to go back to that won’t fade away.
The Reflected Best Self (RBS) is a unique exercise to help you gain awareness of your strengths. Knowing and using strengths has also been shown to lead to a greater personal sense of purpose and well-being.