As I discussed in a previous post, identifying my strengths has been a huge challenge for me. A couple of weeks ago, I discovered the Strengths Finder test, first released by the Gallup Poll people in 2001, and updated to Strengths Finder 2.0 in 2007. The philosophy of the assessment is that there’s too much focus on overcoming one’s deficiencies, which may not even be doable, instead of on recognizing and developing one’s natural talents. There’s a book that accompanies the test to explain the 34 different strengths.
While I was waiting for the library copy of the Strengths Finder 2.0 book to become available, I took a free Strengths Finder test offered by a virtual coaching website, workuno. As usual when I have to choose between two statements about myself, or rate self-perceptions on a scale, I found the test challenging. Not all of my top 5 results resonated for me, while I scored lower on other strengths that seemed like a closer match.
When I checked out the Strengths Finder 2.0 book, I compared their list of 34 strengths to the list of 34 strengths on the free site, and although the names were a little different, there was a lot of similarity between the two lists of 34 talents.
Before I got into the section of the Gallup book that describes each attribute in detail, I decided to take a mini-version of the paid test that fits my broker-than-broke budget. For $9.99 you can get an access code to take the full test and receive just your top 5 strengths. This is upgradeable if you decide you want to see your full list later on – $79 for the upgrade, or $89 for the whole package from the start. If your employer has an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) you might be able to get them to pay for it, but they will have access to your results. The book sells for $15 on Amazon, and includes an access code (not sure to what, exactly), so check that out before you pay $89.
I have spent a lot of the last 3 years raising my own consciousness about what I’m not good at, so perhaps the full list would be redundant, but if I could have afforded it, I would’ve gotten it. I’m still wrestling with the lifelong expectation that “smart” people (a label which is often applied to people simply because they talk well) should be able to figure out anything. It would probably be validating to be relieved from expectations to accomplish things I really have no gift for. However, that isn’t in the budget now, so I’ll have to live without it.
As with the workuno test, I found the Strengths Finder 2.0 test somewhat trying. There are 177 questions where you choose between paired statements about yourself. You can select that one of the statements is strongly true of you, or somewhat true of you, or just pick the neutral position between the two. You have only 20 seconds to answer each question, and are encouraged to answer quickly without thinking too much.
I hated that, and actually missed one question because I thought for longer than 20 seconds. I am sure I wasted a few of those seconds wondering how much time I had left! There is an option to apply for an untimed test if you are reading-disabled. Possibly HSP introverts, who are double-deeply thoughtful, need that too.
Even though you only have 20 seconds to select an answer, there can be a long wait after you have submitted your answer while it is processed. Maybe each answer reconfigures the subsequent questions? Or maybe not. The website ran slowly outside of the test too.
There were many, many questions where neither statement was true about me, or both were, or the statements were so vague they could have totally different answers depending on the context. This resulted in my selecting the neutral option for a large percentage of the questions. I have to wonder how they score a neutral when it could mean that both are strongly true or neither is even slightly true. Given the results, I have a feeling that neutral just cancels both sides of that question out of the scoring. That would throw off the overall weighting of each talent if you answered enough questions with neutral, which I’m pretty sure I did.
Also, a large percentage of the questions presumed a lifestyle with a moderate to heavy interaction level. These were questions about how other people see the test-taker, or how the test-taker interacts with colleagues or friends. Although there had been a couple of books about introversion when the 2007 version of the test came out, it hadn’t yet become the hot topic that it is today. It’s pretty obvious a consciousness about introverted social lives was not integrated into these test questions, and even less so any consciousness about HSPs.
That’s a problem where there are statements like “I start conversations easily.” HSP introverts who reflexively reach out to take care of the physical needs of anyone in their immediate vicinity may strongly agree that this is true of us, but it does not signify that we are extroverts!
Between that, the failure to distinguish between a double-yes and a double-no, and the fact that all the questions are about how you or others see yourself, it’s no surprise the results of the Gallup test didn’t resonate much more than the results of the workuno version. I compared my top 5 from the two tests. Only two were the same in both tests, and those were things I already know about myself, and that are obvious to everyone else, too. Those two were Intellection (is that even a word?) and Input, if you are curious. I’ll bet you knew that about me from reading one post, right?
The remaining 3 in my top 5 from the Gallup test came in at 12, 18 and 33 (of 34) on the workuno test. Hmm. Some tweaking needed in the testing process on both ends, I think. I’ll bet these tests are more suitable for extroverts than they are for introverts. Extroverts are a lot more comfortable about swiftly answering questions, and a lot more conscious of their own persona and how others see them. Whether extrovert self-assessments are accurate is a different question, which I am not touching!
“…if you know yourself well enough to answer that question, then there’s no need to take the test.” (Amazon.com user review)
The test might be more universally helpful if it measured talents by testing them directly, rather than measuring whether you or somebody else thinks you have them (or don’t) under a label which you may have never considered before and have no more than 20 seconds to decide about. A user review about the book on Amazon sums it up nicely, I think: “…if you know yourself well enough to answer that question, then there’s no need to take the test.”
However, the detailed descriptions of each strength in the book, especially the “Ideas for Action,” offer some general advice that might be of interest. You can find slightly abridged versions of these descriptions online by searching on gallup [strengthname]. The full list of the strength names with a very brief description of each can be found here.
So, not the golden key to my box of answers. Ah, well.