‘Harmony’ in a nutshell…
You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum. When you know that the people around you hold differing views, you try to find the common ground. You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. In fact, harmony is one of your guiding values. You can’t quite believe how much time is wasted by people trying to impose their views on others. Wouldn’t we all be more productive if we kept our opinions in check and instead looked for consensus and support? You believe we would, and you live by that belief. When others are sounding off about their goals, their claims, and their fervently held opinions, you hold your peace. When others strike out in a direction, you would willingly, in the service of harmony, modify your own objectives to merge with theirs (as long as their basic values do not clash with yours). When others start to argue about their pet theory or concept, you steer clear of the debate, preferring to talk about practical, down-to-earth matters on which you can all agree. In your view we are all in the same boat, and we need this boat to get where we are going. It is a good boat. There is no need to rock it just to show that you can.
What’s the power of the Harmony talent theme?
The genius of your Harmony StrengthsFinder theme stems from what you can see and how you respond to what you see. First, you can see where people can come together when they are in conflict. Often those in conflict are absolutely blind to how to resolve their conflicts because their differences seem so insurmountable. But you can often see where people in conflict could come together and resolve their differences. The second aspect of the genius of your Harmony StrengthsFinder theme is found in the way you work with people who are in conflict. Usually, one on one and one at a time, you will meet with those in conflict and help each person to clarify their own position and come to see the point of view of the person with whom they are in conflict. In so doing, you help conflicting people move to reconciliation. The genius of your Harmony StrengthsFinder theme is greatly needed in families, small groups, and large organizations. It is as if you are the “glue” that hold relationships together. Unfortunately you sometimes do not receive the credit you deserve, as much of your best work is done behind the scenes. But know that even if no one knows but you, you make a significant and a very positive difference in all of the groups and relationships that you are in.
How do I grow the Harmony talent theme?
1. Exercise discernment in conflicts.
Because of their belief that conflicts are unproductive, individuals with Harmony have a propensity to avoid confrontations. While it is true that there are times when arguing would be thoroughly unproductive — such as if the stress level of the team is already at a dangerously high level — a certain degree of confrontation is necessary for people to find consensus on a deeper level and build greater trust between each other. For example, during the course of our work at Strengths School, I often witness debates between two of my colleagues, Victor and Jason. At the beginning, the debates would often spiral into heated arguments as both Victor and Jason were still figuring out where the other was coming from. Slowly, however, they both learned each other’s styles and strengths, discovering areas of common ground they could work with. Now, it’s readily evident that they have a solid partnership and that both of them have a lot of respect for each other.
Seeing how their partnership was strengthened over time taught me an important lesson: there are certain confrontations that we cannot avoid, particularly if we want to build strong relationships at work or with our loved ones. To mature the StrengthsFinder theme of Harmony, individuals with this talent must learn to discern whether a certain confrontation is necessary to develop greater trust, particularly as they grow in their leadership capacities.
2. Learn to Identify the ‘needs’ of people during conflict.
One of the main reasons conflict occurs is when certain needs have not been met. For example, I once coached a friend who had Ideation as one of her top StrengthsFinder themes. The genius of Ideation is in their natural propensity toward innovation: they’re usually brimming with new ideas, and they love being able to share their creativity with the people around them. This friend was no different, and she would often go to her partner with new ideas to try out. However, because her partner had Deliberative and Analytical, any impracticalities in the ideas would quickly be identified and shot down. Understandably, that friend of mine felt hurt, and she slowly started shutting off that part of herself from her partner, which caused tension in the relationship and spiraled into more conflicts. When they approached me for a coaching session on conflict resolution, I pointed out that one of the ways they could strengthen their connection was by identifying and meeting each other’s needs — in this case, by giving the Ideation theme a space to brainstorm freely before shooting down any ideas.
This principle holds true in any conflict, whether it’s between business partners, married couples, siblings, or friends. When an individual with the Harmony StrengthsFinder theme observes or is caught in the middle of a conflict, a good question to ask would be if there are any needs that have gone unmet or unheard in the conversation. Learning to identify these underlying needs is the starting point for reconciliation (though not necessarily the only thing, of course). From there, the individual with Harmony can help to find common ground so that everyone involved in the conflict can move forward productively.
3. Develop the skills of healthy confrontation.
Working as part of a tightly-knit team (or simply being part of a family) means that there will inevitably be clashes because of the differences between people. But differences don’t necessarily have to lead to disconnection, and conflicts can actually help the relationship grow stronger rather than being hurtful. This is where the skills of healthy confrontation come in. To develop these skills, individuals with the Harmony talent theme can consider resources such as those from the Loving on Purpose Life Academy (which covers general relationships, parenting, or leadership) and the Gottman Institute (which focuses more on marriages and families).
How could this theme be overplayed?
The Harmony talent theme is gifted in being able to find the common ground that brings a team or community together. But because of the Harmony talent theme’s natural need for consensus and dislike for confrontation, individuals with this theme can sometimes take it to an extreme. Subsequently, they can be labelled as “extremely conflict-avoidant,” “fence-sitters,” and “passive-aggressive” (particularly when they suppress their feelings to avoid conflict). However, the overextension of this theme can definitely be managed and this theme developed to maturity.
Three Practical Ways To Manage This Theme:
- Develop a strong peace-making process. What drains those with Harmony the most is when ongoing conflicts or sources of tension don’t seem to be moving toward resolution. This is when it is vital for those with the Harmony talent theme to have a peace-making process in place. Part of this peace-making process is establishing the mutual purpose and respect that the strongest partnerships are founded on. This means that both parties have compatible goals (though not necessarily the same goals), that they care about the best interests of the other, and that their intentions are to resolve any issues and make things better for both parties. Without this mutual purpose and respect, any mediation processes can quickly hit a roadblock.
To build towards this goal, resources such as the Crucial Skills blog can be a great help. The Crucial Skills blog outlines various scenarios that might play out in a professional or personal setting, such as addressing problems with a colleague, confronting late employees, resolving sibling rivalries, and so on. It then gives practical communication strategies for those needing to have ‘crucial conversations’ with someone, which would help individuals with Harmony unlock some of the areas of tension they (or someone around them) might be having with others.
- Invest time into conceptualizing the mission of your organization. The Harmony theme is talented in being able to spot the elements that disparate individuals have in common. However, sometimes when the chips are down and the stakes are high, the only thing that brings a team together is a common vision. Particularly for an organization (such as businesses or community service groups), the pursuit of this common vision empowers individuals to stay connected to the bigger picture and put aside their individual rights and preferences (within reason, of course) for the sake of the cause. Therefore, in building common ground for the team to move forward productively, a leader with Harmony would be well-served by carving out some time to think through the vision or mission of the organization and how every team member plays a vital role in this vision. This would also help mitigate the label that people with Harmony are “resistant to change,” as there will be a level of adjustment needed in order for the entire team to achieve a greater consensus through a common vision.
- Examine your motivations for withdrawing from confrontations. It’s been my experience that at times, the Harmony talent theme can manifest itself in a “retreat” mentality, where Harmony will back off the moment any disagreement arises or keep silent in order to avoid stirring up any discord. While this is beneficial in certain situations (particularly if tensions are already high and both parties need to take some time to cool down and process their thoughts from a less emotionally-charged perspective), at other times this conflict-avoidance can be detrimental to relationships. One way to mature this theme is to examine your reasons for withdrawing or keeping silent. Is your motivation to protect and build the relationship, or is your motivation to avoid creating any friction? For example, it may be that you believe your thoughts, needs, and feelings are not important (or not as important as others), so you keep silent because you believe that expressing them may create tension in the relationship. Yet there is no such thing as an unexpressed feeling; eventually, these suppressed sentiments will find their way out — and it may not be through the healthiest outlet. Subsequently, the passive-aggressive expressions of these feelings will erode relational safety and create more tension in the long run. For the genius of the Harmony theme to be able to shine, those with Harmony must be clear on the mutual goals they would like to build on in their relationships, then align their internal motivations with this end objective.
Concluding Notes: The Harmony StrengthsFinder theme is often dismissed as less useful because of their inclination toward passivity and conflict-avoidance (particularly if the talent theme is in its infancy stage). However, this is often due to a lack of understanding of the raw potential of the theme. In fact, the genius of the Harmony talent theme is in its powerful ability to bring people together, particularly in tightly-knit teams or communities in which conflicts are bound to happen. When the corresponding investments are made into growing this talent theme, Harmony has an incredible ability to unite teams, families, and communities on a core level.
Written by Tan Meiling
Meiling is a writer, editor, and Gallup-Certified StrengthsFinder Coach based in Singapore. As a StrengthsFinder® Coach, she is passionate about helping people discover their innate potential and celebrating who they are. She enjoys reading, learning, and sharing her knowledge through writing articles. Meiling is also actively giving StrengthsFinder coaching to individuals and facilitating workshops in Singapore.
Copyright © 2000, 2012 Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved. Gallup®, CliftonStrengths®, StrengthsFinder®, and each of the 34 StrengthsFinder talent themes are trademarks of Gallup, Inc.