Thursday, June 4, 2015

You Want to Know...What?

There is one question on our intake form that gets more blank stares and puzzled looks than any other...

What are Your Strengths and Talents?

I don't think people are used to answering this question. A client just yesterday stumbled over it. "Do I have to fill this out?" she asked.

I noted her uniform.  She worked for a home health agency in town.  I replied, "Yes, please!  I know you're good at something!"

When she came up to my office, I explained to her why we ask that question. 
  • One, we realize at Common Ground that it is very difficult for some people to ask for assistance.  It makes them feel dirty, conspicuous, even less than human. The question reminds us that the person asking for help is really good at something. (In fact, the person is very likely to be much better at that particular something than I am!)  It gives a person worth and value in what could potentially be a dehumanizing situation.
  • Second, we have been told by employers that one of the most common mistakes people make in applying for a job is the failure of the applicant to identify his/her own strengths. People don't know how to sell what they already possess! I think this is especially true of people living in the cycle of poverty.You are repeatedly beat down at every turn, so it's hard to see yourself in a positive light. We coach our guests sometimes on what to say at job interviews, based on the answer they give to that one simple question.
  • Third (and most importantly), we try to center everything we do on relationship at Common Ground. This means we want to know the whole you. We want to know your weaknesses; we want to know your strengths. We feel we can only help you if we see you as a whole person. You may be short on your rent, or you may have your utilities disconnected, but you can sing like a meadowlark. You are an awesome mother. You can weld. You once got an award for a poem you wrote in high school. These are all very important things to know about you.
When I looked at the answer to the question on our guest's intake form yesterday, I smiled. "I am good at working with people in need."

She got it.