´ The Vocabulary of Strengths
May 6, 2014

If you like to read you must have encountered this idea, that the Inuit have between 13-27 different ways of talking about snow. Some say it’s an urban myth while others claim it’s true. At university our lecturer once challenged us to write down all the different ways once could talk about rain.

As a class we came up with probably a dozen words or expressions, maybe more. If on the other hand we would have been challenged to write about maybe words that describe smells or textures or something else we usually do not discuss very often, it would have been quite different. Therefore regardless of whether the Inuit story is true or not, concepts exist about which we talk much more and with a greater variety than about other topics.
One of the great joys of learning foreign languages is discovering these differences in vocabulary and noticing, that if certain concepts have no words in our native tongue, it might be difficult to talk about them. As all my friends are already tired of hearing: naches is a Yiddish word for proud enjoyment and often refers to the pride parents, grandparents or mentors feel, when they think about something their children, grandchildren or mentees said or did.
That is the rationale behind giving people strengths tests: not only do people learn what they are good at, they are given the language to talk about it. This is one of the most simple ways to benefit from strengths: to notice them, name them and talk about them. So if you are too busy to learn a new language why not learn the language of strengths, of all the things that are right and good in humans and other animals? Once you pay a bit more attention, you might discover that the world is suddenly full with kindness, honesty or gifted storytellers. These conversations are not trivial: research has shown that 66% of people can’t articulate their strengths. So if you think that someone is really good at something mention it anyway. If they already know, it’s nice to hear. If not it might be beneficial to them, to learn about it. And why not even talk to others about it, positive gossip so to speak?

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