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Taking Strengths Theory to the Next Level

written by Scott Asalone 6 April 2011

Scott Asalone, MAPP '08, is an author, speaker and entrepreneur. He is a partner and co-Founder of ASGMC, Inc. and works both nationally and internationally specializing in identifying and unleashing the best in people and organizations. His blog is called The Greatness Project. Full bio.

Scott's articles are here.

Now, Discover Yiour StrengthsEarly in 2001 I picked up what was then a brand new book by Marcus Buckingham and Don Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths. Immediately upon reading it I was hooked on strengths theory. Over the past 10 years as an enthusiast and a practitioner, I’ve run workshops, coached people, and continued reading anything about strengths. I wrote an article recently for PositivePsychologyNews.com about what I’ve learned from practice, What Do You Do With a Strengths Assessment?

Now Robert Biswas-Diener, Todd Kashdan, and Gurpal Minhas are about to take strengths theory to the next level with a new article titled A Dynamic Approach to Psychological Strengths Development and Intervention scheduled for publication in The Journal of Positive Psychology. Having had the privilege of reading an early copy, I can tell you that it is worth reading.

Gurpal Minhas

Gurpal Minhas



Todd Kashdan

Todd Kashdan

The authors begin with an excellent summary of the research on strengths theory. Their focus turns quickly to the current state of strengths interventions and the practitioners who are applying strengths’ assessments in their professional capacities. Though the authors acknowledge practitioners as the front line for applying strengths theory, they caution that both the offering of theory and the interventions themselves need to be properly applied, and both need to be accompanied by data collection to evaluate their efficacy.

Through an admittedly limited survey of practitioners, the authors identify the “identify and use” approach as the one most used by practitioners of strengths assessments. That is, practitioners first help clients identify their strengths and then conduct dialogues about how to use them. Though they believe the identify and use approach is practical, they advocate a more general “strengths development“ approach that will serve Positive Psychology and our clients better.

Strengths' Ascent

Strengths' Ascent

Fixed or Not?

A major pillar of the strengths development approach is the shift from a trait-like concept of strengths to a dynamic approach. They point out that the current trait-like model states that strengths are fixed across time and situations, but they argue that a more nuanced approach is necessary to understand strengths. The common understanding of strengths as trait-like runs in opposition to the idea that strengths can be developed. They claim that the movement to a dynamic model is not a radical departure from strengths theory, but instead an extension based on new research about strengths. Their reference list is a good place to start exploring the new research.

Because of this shift in theory, Diener, Kashdan and Minhas suggest to practitioners that we offer a theoretically integrated approach to strengths development that goes beyond the common ways to develop strengths (become better at them, use them more, know when to use them). They suggest a change of focus from usage of strengths to cultivation of strengths so that clients come to fully understand the benefits, liabilities, and ideal application of strengths.

Strengths in Isolation

The authors caution that much of current practice seems to isolate individual strengths. For example, the identification of a “top strength” tends to imply that strengths exist divorced from other internal and social factors. I liked the following five concepts that they offer to practitioners and strengths enthusiasts for increasing the effectiveness of strengths interventions.


  1. Strengths tilt: A key factor in maximizing strengths is the interest or natural leaning of the individual. By understanding not only the strengths of an individual, but also their interests, there is a greater possibility of full manifestation of strengths.
  2. Strengths constellations: It is important to examine the ways that pairs or groups of strengths work effectively in tandem that are unique to each person. These constellations of strengths can add a deeper level of understanding to strengths theory.
  3. Strengths blindness: Some individuals can have blindness when it comes to some of their strengths because they assume the similarity of everyone else. The authors suggest this as an interesting area of research. Are there, for example, strengths that are more likely to be overlooked than others? Are people, for example, more like to see their own humor and spirituality than their kindness, courage, or curiosity? The authors suggest in personal coaching, it is important to identify personal blind spots so that strengths aren’t overlooked.
  4. Strengths sensitivity: The emphasis on strengths might make people more psychologically vulnerable to failure than they might otherwise be. Practitioners need to be aware of this.
  5. The social costs of strengths: The overuse of a strength can have negative effects on others. There needs to be awareness about how the usage of strengths will impact others so that the person can judge when to use the strength or not.

Biswas-Diener, Kashdan, and Minhas are offering a more thoughtful, nuanced approach to applying strengths theory. They willingly admit where more data is needed, but they want to engage individuals and practitioners in developing a more complete research base that will take strengths theory to the next level. Look for the article in The Journal of Positive Psychology.




Buckingham, M. & Clifton, D.O. (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: The Free Press.

Biswas-Diener, R., Kashdan, T. B., & Minhas, G. (in press). A Dynamic Approach to Psychological Strengths Development and Intervention. The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Kathmandu, Nepal, Himalayas, Everest courtesy of ilkerEnder
Constellation Sagitarrius courtesy of CptAhab

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Judy Krings 6 April 2011 - 12:02 pm

What a treat to see you 3 on the same page literally and figuratively notching up strengths to the next developmental tier. I am heading to Kathmandu in the fall, my strengths packed together, sewn like a patchwork of positivity. Thanks for scientifically designing and evolving positive psychology coaching. You are our pp hopes and shining stars.

oz 6 April 2011 - 2:27 pm

Scott – I have always thought that strengths were mostly another name for personality traits – there seems to be a high correlation with personality.

So the big question is there any evidence to support that its not a trait. It’s good that the guys throw up alternative theories – but they are just theories.

I find the issues of strengths blindness – always thought this was a weakness of self report meaasures. That’s why I prefer a personality instrument as it allows an independent exploration of potential strengths.

Todd Kashdan 6 April 2011 - 6:41 pm

Oz, you are absolutely right. Strengths are a subset of personality traits.

I am unsure of what to make of your criticism that “they are just theories.” Where would you like to begin? Bottom-up and top-down processing, we need them both.

Theories are frameworks for ideas and practice. Take your pick- evolution, self-determination theory, terror management theory, self-discrepancy theory, cybernetic model of self-attention, stereotype threat theory, objective self-awareness theory, attribution theory, etc. Without theories, there are simply loose constructs and ideas floating around the ether.


Lisa Sansom 6 April 2011 - 7:14 pm

I am so glad to see this nuanced view of strengths, and the book is on my to-buy list. I had the privilege of taking a positive psychology coaching course from Robert Biswas-Diener and he spoke to many of these aspects of strengths, and I know it rang true. It feels so good that we have moved from siloed monolithic strengths to a more careful and contextual view. This also aligns quite well with the Realise2 strengths assessment, and I’d love to see VIA and SF (StrengthsFinder) move that way. That said, SF coaches are, as I understand, trained to interpret the strengths assessment results integratively – considering the impact of one strength on another. I’d love to see VIA catch up…

Oz 6 April 2011 - 10:58 pm

todd – the point I’m making is that people rush out and make all sorts of claims based on a theory that hasn’t been tested or has limited support. This is typically of strengths work. My hunch with strengths work is that its all about the activity – it doesn’t really matter what you do. For example working on weankness also improves life satisfaction. It all sounds like one big hawthorne effect to me. I wonder what would happen if you primed a group by saying that working on weaknesses has a profound impact on your wellbeing. Or perhaps rather than priming a strength as such it was called a “dominant behaviour” – take the value judgement out of it. simple questions that haven’t been answered.

oz 7 April 2011 - 5:42 am

Todd – I realised there is a problem with the understanding of theory. One definition is “A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.” Strengths fail part of the definition – “repeatedly tested”. However I guess it satisfies the laypersons definition “An assumption based on limited information or knowledge”.

As a scientist you would have to acknowledge the science of strenghts is pretty weak.

Scott Asalone 7 April 2011 - 11:14 am

Excellent to hear from you. I agree with your points about the VIA and what needs to happen. The Realize2 is mentioned in the article along with VIA and StrengthsFinder. You will find the article a good addition to your strengths knowledge.

Scott Asalone 7 April 2011 - 11:32 am

Some interesting dialogue above. I’d like to add a different perspective. First of all, I am not a scientist, I’m a practitioner in the for-profit category and my clients (multi-national corporations and non-profit organizations) only pay me for what gets results. I was part of the Six Sigma movement, which as you know is focused on eliminating errors (deficit model). It works very well on manufacturing processes. I also worked with organizations as they tried to use this same model on human interaction and it was a disaster though it was touted as being able to make them extremely efficient and better able to enjoy work. In my business, focusing on strengths has produced significant results in both individuals and organizations and changed the way they think and do business. If it is just the “Hawthorne effect” they don’t care. It works.
I applaud the authors of the article for pushing us further into exploration of strengths. And I enjoy the nuance they bring to strengths theory so that as we practitioners use it outside the laboratory, we can better evaluate its efficacy with clients and organizations.
I look forward to more scientific research as to the how and why strengths theory does or does not work. Meanwhile, only speaking for myself, strengths-focus works for my clients and that’s the evidence I need.

oz 7 April 2011 - 1:48 pm

Scott – if its the hawthorne effect then the question is are there cheaper options that tap into the hawthorne effect – also the problem with the hawthorne effect (like the placebo) is that it doesn’t last.

Scott Asalone 7 April 2011 - 3:21 pm

I was being glib about “purchasing” the Hawthorne effect. In my consulting experience, strengths focus works more effectively and longer than deficit based interventions. But I look forward to you, me and all of the Positive Psychology scientists and practitioners finding better ways to create long lasting positive change. Meanwhile, we can continue testing and evaluating the efficacy of strengths theory (and all of our other PP theories and interventions) right now in the lab and the workplace and exchange the information.

oz 7 April 2011 - 4:52 pm

Scott, I guess we have different consulting experiences. I have found mindfulness to be the most powerful workplace intervention. This probably reinforces the need for independent research to overcome personal biases and commercial agendas.

Robert Biswas-Diener 7 April 2011 - 6:35 pm

I feel compelled to weigh in with a couple of comments. The first is that, as a scientist, I do NOT need to characterize strengths research as “weak” and find that argument to be a bit misguided. It is unclear whether “weak” might mean small effect sizes, or improper analyses, or non-generalizable samples, or simply a relatively small body of research literature. In fact, I am heartened by the growing body of research and the fact that it is occuring in many domains– clinical, education, organizations, and general well-being. Add to this the related literature on “midset,” personality, and specific strengths research such as gratitude, creativity, leadership, etc and you have a pretty full body of empiricism pointing to the worthwhileness of strengths approaches.

Which leads me to my second comment: I don’t think anyone is suggesting that strengths are the “most powerful workplace intervention,” just as I remain unconvinced that mindfulness can be thus described. The workplace requires myriad itnerventions individually tagged to specific organizational outcomes such as leadership development, change innoculation, worker engagement, customer evaluations, HR practices, tunrover, and many others. I would be highly skeptical that mindfulness is a panacea appropriate for all organizations and all organizational outcomes. Strengths is but one approach, and is powerful for certain things– organizational recruitment and placement strategy, team building, performance reviews, and so forth. But a comprehensive leadership development program, for example, would not rest on strengths interventions alone. Not by a long shot.

As someone who leans toward provacation myself I appreciate your strong opinions and contrary view, OZ, and am, in fact, drawn into the debate by them. So you are successful on that count. But, as our article argues, I would say that we should approach these issues with nuance.

oz 7 April 2011 - 7:13 pm

robert – yep nuance is everything. We need to be flexible in how things are applied. Not formulaic. And no mindfulness is not the answer.

By weak I mean limited research – really hasn’t any questions eg is it placebo, is it more effective, who does it work for, when does it work etc

But I’m not sure why we are re-inventing the wheel with strengths – MBTI has been around for years and essentially does exactly the same thing – interaction, golden mean etc

Scott Asalone 7 April 2011 - 8:15 pm

Not sure I agree with you here. I’ve used MBTI for years and strengths theory is not the same. There is a deeper degree of awareness and application than MBTI, but as the authors referenced in their article, MBTI and strengths assessment provide a combination that can enhance the use of strengths.

oz 7 April 2011 - 8:30 pm

Scott – I would argue the opposite – so we’ll have to agree to disagree. At the end of the day its wjat works for people in a sustainable way. My thoery (the laymans version) is that its not strengths per say that have the impact – its getting people of their butts and doing something. I guess thats why I focus on energising activities in my PERFORMance workshops.

Todd Kashdan 7 April 2011 - 9:11 pm

Wayne, as a scientist, I completely agree with Robert. Take a look at just the work on hope and optimism, and just the work by Rick Snyder, Shane Lopez, Susanne Segerstrom, Charles Carver, Seligman, and Peterson. Add in the research on curiosity (see my book for references) and add in the research on other strengths either individually or in concert and you have a massive literature.

Perhaps one of the problems is that you did not read our article (see content and references).
Perhaps another problem is that you are not doing a thorough literature review. Using strengths as a keyword will only get you so far, not every scientist uses this term.

Anyone who characterizes the science of strengths as “pretty weak” is simply missing the relevant literature. Use the author names above and you will find that there is more to psychology than just mindfulness and that there is a great deal of science on strengths.

Looking forward to more targeted critiques


oz 8 April 2011 - 3:42 am

Todd – I picked a study that was referenced in the article at random at random – the Wood 2011 study – essentially said that strengths use was associated with decreased stress.

This is an extract of the research – The research has some limitations, particularly with the exclusive use of self-report measures. Conservatively, the results are best interpreted as perceived strengths use; testing whether such
strengths are actually being used will require behavioral measures.
However, such issues are not limited to strengths research, occurring,
for example, in research into coping or social support

Basically acknowledges the research methodology is flawed but that’s ok because this methodology is used all the time.

Secondly what is the questionnaire actually measuring – could it be a tendency to “fake good”.

At the end of the day, can you point me towards a piece of research that demonstrates its not the Hawthorne effect.

As an aside this research http://www.innate-intelligence.com.au/blog/?p=614 sort of reinforces my fundamental perspective – that it really doesn’t matter what you are working on.

Todd Kashdan 8 April 2011 - 10:17 am

Wayne, I gave you the authors, you can find their work on google scholar. Its not about a single study which anybody can pick apart, its about synthesizing and interpreting a body of work. Read the work and I will be more interested in your criticism. I am less interested in critiques from people that don’t read the literature. The findings you want are out there. Check out the Hope interventions by Snyder and Lopez, check out the learned optimism interventions by the Penn crew.

blanket statements that the research isn’t up to par when you haven’t done the work to read the literature doesn’t help anybody, and it hurts your credibility on these topics.


Robert Biswas-Diener 8 April 2011 - 10:46 am


To some extent I agree with you…. when an outside consultant comes in and offers a piece of valuable attention to employees– whether it is a strengths intervention, mindfulness, a team building exercise, etc.– people often get a boost of morale, engagement and so forth. But you are right to question how long such interventions last, and whether the specific interventions matter. Is it, as in the case of therapy, that a pretty good, relatable, therapist is more important than the specific clinical orientation? Matthew Stewart raises the same question in his provacative book, The Management Myth.

That said, it doesn’t mean that we should treat energy healing, walking on hot coals, MBTI and strengths interventions as completely comparable interventions in the workplace. let’s look at a single case study example. CAPP ran a strengths based recruitment drive for the largest insurance company in the UK. The recruits did not know that this was a strengths based recruitment campaign (to your point about the hawthorne effect). When compared with traditional competency based recruitment, within this same organization, the strengths approach yeilded, among others, the following results: fewer, higher quality applicants were interviewed (already a cost savings for the company), the induction time was shorted, and turnover was cut dramatically.

To a large extent the feasiability of strengths interventions rests on comprehensive buy-in within an organization. I recommend Alex Linley and Nicky Cargea’s chapters on this topic in my book Positive Psychology as Social Change, and also the Oxford handbook of Positive Psychology at work. I have seen this recently in my work with various companies….. a positive small business (60 employees) had an easy time integrating strengths management techniques into their organizational culture, and had a specific plan for how best to implement these during a stressful period of transition. On the other hand, a traditional large command-and-control company (1,000 employees), had a harder time integrating these techniques. So, you are right that we need to continue to look at where strengths work best, and with whom, and for what. I beleive, however, that you error on the side of dismissing strengths out of hand, depsite the evidence pointing to the effectiveness of these interventions.


oz 8 April 2011 - 2:33 pm

Robert – agreed. I haven’t dismissed strengths – It’s part of my PERFORMance model – energising activities see http://www.i-i.com.au/resilience/content.html

When I first talk to a business I know whether my work is going to have an impact or not. So again some question – was it the strengths intervention or the culture that reduced turnover. Would an MBTI have done the same thing?

Thanx for the interesting discussion

Robert Biswas-Diener 8 April 2011 - 2:48 pm


yes, agreed. Could the MBTI or similar instruments also lead to similar results? Possibly, and this illustrates the need for incremental validity studies. on the case study i mentioned, it was strengths that made the difference because you can compare multiple recruitment strategies for matching departments within the same organization– essentially giving you a control group– to find a better result. A finer look at moderating influences of other variables and how multiple aspects of business– such as work culture or management style or leader charisma– interact with strengths are needed. fortunately, there are engaged practitioners who are collecting on-going data and researchers conducting further studies…..


oz 8 April 2011 - 2:50 pm

Todd, I have access to research databases. When research is published on strengths I generally look at it – and most of it is far from convincing. The one I quoted I picked at random just to illustrate my point. And based on my past experience on strengths I could do the same with most of the research.

Also I am not disputing the efficacy of some strengths eg hope, zest and curiosity given the impact they have on well being. But we are confusing terminology here – they can’t be personal strengths if you don’t have them (perhaps they can be developed???). They are strengths in the sense that they have a strong impact on wellbeing – to a certain extent they are strong interventions.

But I really question the proposition that working on all strengths is worthwhile?

And what if it is just one huge “do do” bird effect?

Yes I am guilty of not having the in depth knowledge that you have. But as always there are advantages. The beauty of not being an academic is that I have the luxury of synthesising information from a wide range of disciplines.

Enjoy your weekend

oz 8 April 2011 - 5:08 pm

Robert, agreed about the need for incremental validity. Seems to be lots of rebranding of old concepts in PP.

It’s good to see a control – unusual in PP

Out of interest was the unit picked at random or did they volunteer. If not you could argue that by volunteering it might be a cultural issue – a culture open to strengths might be also doing a number of other things.

Todd Kashdan 9 April 2011 - 12:09 pm


Academia does not prevent people from reading outside their discipline. Whether you are inside or outside academia, you can rely on blanket, rigid opinions or you can synthesize and interpret whatever is out there. I’m asking you to reconsider your reliance on the former

Shane Lopez, Jennifer Cheavens, and Rick Snyder have hope interventions to increase goal setting, agency thinking, and flexibility in response to adversity for children, adults, and older adults. I have the manuals next to me. They have published a few papers here and there.

Cheavens, J. S., Feldman, D., Gum. A., Michael, S. T., & Snyder, C. R. (2006). Hope therapy in a community sample: A pilot investigation. Social Indicators Research, 77, 61 – 78.

Tons of materials here from a recent keynote: http://www.ofyp.umn.edu/en/focusing-on-the-first-year/conference-materials.html

But these are just examples, again, go to the authors in the prior response if you really are interested in this topic. Check out the interventions, they are there for the taking. As for the wide range of disciplines that you claim to read from, I’d love to actually see you talk about it and create something from it that the rest of us are missing out on…..

Skepticism is fantastic. Your cynicism is weird considering that you put strengths into your work and yet from this exchange, don’t believe it is scientifically informed.

So here are my questions for you:
1. what evidence do you need to change your opinion? And in all seriousness, I am not trying to change it and don’t care if you change it. I’m just throwing a sampling of evidence behind these ideas that inform what I do.
2. do you believe that psychological strengths can’t be changed? if so, what leads you to that conclusion? If not, do you believe that downstream benefits are no different than any other intervention or TAU?
2. if you believe there is nothing to strengths development other than a placebo, why are strengths part of how you do business? Part of your beloved acronym?

Stay skeptical and provocative but mindfully consider the cynicism. To be candid, this conversation has crossed my boredom threshold. But I look forward to your response or at least, hope that you take your beloved mindfulness practice to heart on how you think about strengths and your work.

In my opinion, you would be missing on the potential of what you could be doing in your practice by pushing this body of ideas and research under the rubric of the dodo verdict.

balancing constructive criticism and creation


oz 9 April 2011 - 3:11 pm

Todd – I am not saying that hope interventions don’t work – I’m just saying that perhaps some of the strengths seem more powerful than others (think zest and hope – if so this challenges the basic premise of the strengths – because some strengths are stronger than others. So why work on a strength if it has minimal impact.

Let me answer your question

1. The research is really simple – controlling for the priming effect of the word strengths, is there evidence that working on strengths is superior to working on weaknesses/other interventions. Does it have a sustainable impact? Secondly is it really beneficial to work on all strengths?

2. Do I believe some strengths can be changed? Well if its personality I don’t think in the long term. But there are always outliers. My beloved acronym refers to energizing activities (perhaps zest) rather than strengths. These activities tend to involve self efficacy – whih I suspect underpins strength interventions. I also have my physiological take on this – does the activity increase vagal tone?

3. I spend a a lot of time talking about the placebo in my management workshops – its obviously powerful – so how can they tap into it? I show a video on sham knee surgery and the effect of the placebo on brain function in people with depression and use this as a discussion for what exactly is the placebo. We discuss the power of priming language eg using words like strengths. The interesting thing with placebo is the research says it works better if it aligns with people beliefs. So if you have a value around strengths – then its going to be more impactful.

When you are next in Melbourne, you are welcome to attend one of my workshops – they really are different from most PP workshops.

As always these discussions are useful as they help to crystallize my thinking.

Enjoy your weekend

Jeremy McCarthy (@jeremymcc) 11 April 2011 - 11:55 am

I have used both MBTI and the VIA in workplace interventions. I am always impressed by people who really know and use the MBTI as it seems like a powerful tool. But the amount of training that is required before it becomes useful makes it prohibitive for most businesses. On the other hand, in even a one hour session on strengths, people “get it” and are introduced to a new vocabulary that they can begin using even with people who did not attend the workshop. The MBTI also has its own language, but it is only understood by those who have had regular ongoing training with the different dimensions.

A lot of the research on strengths work falls into the “no duh” category, like saying that carpenters who use their tools can build houses better and faster. I think some of Wayne’s point comes from the overarching emphasis on “use your signature strengths in new ways” as THE favorite strengths intervention of PP. It is not clear that the benefit has anything to do with using signature strengths in particular and perhaps you could get the same benefit by working on a lesser strength or (to Wayne’s point) by taking any number of other actions to develop yourself. I appreciate the more nuanced approach to strengths highlighted in the article above.

From my experience, the primary benefit of the strengths work (at least in the workplace) revolves around a shift in vocabulary and thinking that is more energizing. Conversations around strengths are just more energizing, engaging and enjoyable than conversations around problems and weaknesses, which lead to defensive reactions and rationalizations that can push people to dig into their ruts rather than having them reach out for new ways of performing.

Robert Biswas-Diener 12 April 2011 - 4:46 pm

Jeremy, I love your comment here and believe that the overarching “use your signature strengths in new ways” approach is exactly what Todd, Gurpal, and I are arguing against in our article. To the extent that Wayne, or anyone else for that matter, is responding to an idea of strengths based on “identify and use” interventions, I would point them directly to this article which adds a variety of suggestions for contextual approaches to strengths development.

It has been more than half a decade since we thought that identifying strengths and using them more was a state of the art approach. Positive psychology has come a long way since those landmark 2005 articles. There are now very nuanced ways to have performance evaluation conversations at work based on strengths-based learning, strengths recruitment techniques that never even mention the word strengths, and coaching applications that change the conversation from “carpenters who use their tools build better houses” to “carpenters who know when to use the right tool for the right job, when multiple tools need to be used, and who can use tools very proficiently so as not to waste materials build better houses.”

I am so glad you get it.

oz 12 April 2011 - 5:01 pm

Robert, your comment “carpenters who know when to use the right tool for the right job, when mutiple tools need to be used, and who can use tools very proficiently so as not to waste materials build better houses” is exactly what I mean. There is a fundamental here – does the tool do the job it claims to do in the first place.

It’s interesting the average PP practioner won’t be capable of using this nuanced approach that you advocate. So where does that place PP?

Robert Biswas-Diener 12 April 2011 - 7:22 pm

OZ, I train thousands of professionals a year in various aspects of these approaches, and they do quite well and are often– in fact– wonderful. But I suppose I have a more charitable view toward my fellow practitioner than you do. I notice in your posts that you consistently suggest how other people are limited, uninformed, misguided, apathetic, dispirited and a possess a range of other professional obstacles. The professionals I know are generally bright, engaged, creative, and up for the challenge of new and difficult material.

I am pretty uninvested in trying to convert you. I am not a missionary. You harbor some legitimate criticisms and also seem pretty wedded to a contrarian position. I am not interested in shifting you and find that our interactions often leave me feeling drained. I am more interested in continuing to move the field forward incrementally, and in collaboration with others.

oz 13 April 2011 - 3:09 pm

Robert – I don ‘t dispute the passion of PP’ers – passion, enthusiasm etc. But sometimes excessive use of these strengths becomes a problem – taking the claims beyond the research.

However I would have to insist that the majority of PP practitioners are uninformed – and this makes sense b’c they don’t have access to the current research nor can they read and understand research – they rely on books like authentic happiness which is sadly dated to give them a sound grab That’s why forums like this are important as it is chance to raise the awareness of the nuances of positive psychology.

I also need to highlight that my wellbeing work is only part time. I spend 3 days per week working in a business improvement managers role in a large organisation. It gives me a reality check on the effectiveness of consultants/trainers. I’m impressed that you’ve trained 1000’s but as an insider really question the impact you claim. I’ve probably only trained a couple of 1000 people over my career and realistically am happy if I have an impact on 1 in 20. But then perhaps you are the exception to the rule and perhaps I should recruit you to do some work for my organisation. But then again perhaps I’m a pessimist (although the questionnaires say I’m not) – or perhaps a realistic optimist.

It’s interesting that these sorts of conversations leave you drained – I find them energising. I guess that’s why I’m good at my job – the challenging conversations keep me energised.

Scott 14 April 2011 - 10:37 am

Robert and Todd,
Thanks for all the additional information you provided in your response to some of the questions above. I’ve already incorporated some of your nuances in my corporate work and participants respond very favorably. Quick question for both of you. You mention in your paper the need to collect more data on some of your ideas. That’s how we can advance some of the nuances. How can those of us who use strengths professionally help you? How would like us to scrub the data and get it to where it needs to be?
Thanks again for expanding our knowledge and language around strengths.


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