Can you remember your last job performance review? I remember my boss sitting me down to discuss the finer points of my work for the past twelve months. She highlighted what I did right and a few areas where I could probably push myself.
Afterwards, I went back to my desk, mulling over the areas where I was lacking (my mental phrasing, not hers). I focused on what I could do in the areas where I was falling short. I obsessed over the few challenges where I wasn’t average on the sliding scale. Where I had failed as an employee.
Sound familiar? Perhaps it wasn’t a job performance. Perhaps the review is coming from a girlfriend or boyfriend as they pull the plug on the relationship.
In either case, it is human nature to focus on the negative. To dwell on it. According to Harvard Business Review’s article entitled How to Play to Your Strengths, “Multiple studies have shown that people pay keen attention to negative information. For example, when asked to recall important emotional events, people remember four negative memories for every positive one.”
Focusing on the negative, ironically, doesn’t bring out the best in people. It’s like pointing out that the kicker of a football team lacks throwing skills. The alternative is to identify and harness the power in the strengths department.
Let’s say your ex-girlfriend says you don’t hold hands enough. So, you try to be more physically affectionate with the next one, which comes off awkward and weird to the two of you. What your ex-girlfriend didn’t tell you is that you remembered every birthday, anniversary and small event. People love in different ways. You don’t need to change to fit her definition of “The One” for you are perfect for someone looking for Mr. Wonderful with a great memory for the little things.
The beautifully frustrating paradox of humans is that “while people remember criticism, they respond to praise. The former makes them defensive and therefore unlikely to change, while the latter produces confidence and the desire to perform better.” Building someone up will help them become a better person. This includes how you treat yourself.
Let’s be honest—dating can feel pretty awkward at times. Make the whole process a little more comfortable and a little less stressful by playing to your strengths. If you’re more reserved but you’re a great writer, hop online and email your way to a first date. If face-to-face interactions allow you to shine, hire a dating service and let them do the work—all you’ll have to do is show up and be your charming self! If you’re most comfortable in active settings, join a singles’ group that keeps busy with cooking classes, ski trips, or art lessons.
Know your strengths. Play to them. Be the kicker.