How CliftonStrengths Solved A 12-Year Argument

January 24, 2020

How CliftonStrengths Solved A 12-Year Argument

I have been married for 16 years, and I have to say that I married a woman that is definitely out of my league. Marriage has been a great adventure, but as it goes, many things are tough in marriage. One of the things that I found difficult is living with someone that is not like me. She does not think as I do, she does not feel like I do, the things that she finds important are not always the things I find important, and visa versa. We value different things. I find the longer we are married, the more that aligns, but there are still many things we do not see eye to eye on.

I found that we were able to work through anything that came our way, but I also discovered that we had a tendency to argue over the same kind of thing. The argument looked different, but it was the same core issue. We had, essentially, a 12-year argument that we seemed never to solve…until we discovered the world of CliftonStrengths, which at that time was Clifton StrengthsFinder.

We both took CliftonStrengths more out of curiosity than out of a desire to solve anything. It took about a year after I became a coach that it started clicking with us during a conversation, that many of the things that we naturally did were the reasons we had argued. What we came to realize was the intricacy of how we were different, and how differently we saw the world.

You may ask, why is this something that you did not do before? We tried! In the past, when we discussed why we were arguing, it usually became very personal, and feelings were hurt. When we started understanding things through Strengths language, it became clearer without becoming personal. We began to realize that the differences were not problems, but rather, advantages.

I know that at this time, you may be asking, what is the argument that you had that lasted 12 years? Well, I am glad you asked. I am a person that gets energized by doing various tasks because I like to see things being accomplished. When I work, I work hard. I will stay till it is completed, and I don’t mind rolling up my sleeves and tackle anything that seems like it is chaos. I enjoy bringing order to chaos, but when I bring order or fix things, I only have a desire to make them functional. I release what I am doing when I get to the point of it being good.

A good example is when we clean the kitchen. I have 5 kids. We eat dinner at home as often as we can. The problem with eating dinner at home is that you are left with a kitchen that is messed up, and when you have 7 people in your family, that mess is a little larger. I like to cook, and when I cook, I use almost every pot and pan that we own, the 3 cutting boards are out with each one having their individual knife for a specific task. By the time that we sit down to eat the meal, the farmhouse sink is filled with so many dishes that with one false move, they would cascade down onto the floor. I am exaggerating for a little effect.

After eating, we would start to clean the kitchen. I would tackle the dishes with every movement mapped out. I would load the dishwasher as needed. I would wash the cookware, and any other dish or utensil that did not fit into the dishwasher, and I would place the washed dishes on a drying mat neatly stacked. Sometimes I would wipe the counter if it needed it, and then move onto other things.

My wife, in the meantime, would be putting the food away, wiping the table, and cleaning the other parts of the kitchen. When she completed that, she would move onto taking care of the children, putting them in the bathtub, making sure their homework was completed, and getting them ready for bed.

After my wife would complete all that she was doing, she would come in and dry the dishes, put them away, wipe the counter and the table, position the decorations, and light a candle. Periodically she would ask questions like, “can you help me finish cleaning the kitchen?” or “how come you stop cleaning when you do?” I would let her know that I completed the job, the dishes were drying, and it was time to do something else. We would banter back and forth. Now I know I have people that are reading this that would completely side with my wife, and others understand where I am coming from.

I never considered myself as someone that did not complete jobs. I stick there till jobs are finished. I don’t leave things undone. I am the completer of tasks. When someone challenges that, I take it personally. I have a talent (or strength) called Restorative. I like to take things that are broken, messed up, disheveled, or seemingly have lost its value, and I want to restore order, clean it up, or fix it.

My wife has a talent called Maximizer. She likes to take good things to the level of excellence. What she touches or puts her mind to, she does not release until it is excellent. When she sees things that are broken or extremely messy, she will clean as needed, but it is weary. When she sees a messed up kitchen, she sees hours of work and toil. I see the incredibly messed up kitchen, and I almost get energized.

What I found out or realized is that our definition of completion was different. My Restorative talent only desires to clean the mess. My Restorative talent only desires to do it to the point as to which it is good. My wife’s Maximizer talent sees a clean kitchen but recognizes there is more to do.

After discovering the needs, wants, and limits of our Restorative and Maximizer talents, we had a great discussion on how to make this situation work. Since I like cleaning things that are messy, I will start cleaning while she takes care of other things in the kitchen or with the kids. She will come in to help me, but I will only go until the point that I feel it is completed. Dishes are airdrying, stove and counters might be wiped down, or might not, depending on how bad I think they are. She will finish what she wants to do. After she is finished, the kitchen looks fantastic, dishes put away, counters completely wiped down, decorations in place, and the candle lit.

We both have different ideas of what completed looks like, but what we discovered and implemented is that we work in how we were made to be, and not expect the other to act that way. Now, could I just do everything the way she wanted it to be, to the level of her liking? I could definitely try, but I don’t always see what needs to be done to be excellent. Could she get to the point where she let good enough be good enough even if it means dishes all over the counter, and decorations never in place? Yes, she absolutely could, but her kitchen would never be excellent looking. Instead, we both do what we are good at, and we get the same result, and we are both ok with letting each other do what we do well. This principle gets applied in many areas that we work together on. I fold clothes, she puts away. I sweep, she mops.

Are there areas that you struggle with your spouse that if you look at the core, they are essentially the same struggle?