What’s the difference between
strengths and preferences?

By TetraMap_Admin - November 28, 2016

Everyday communication might seem simple.

Emails are boundless these days and it only takes a few seconds to zap a text into cyberspace. But have you ever considered the way you prefer to be communicated with?

Maybe you’ve become highly adept at writing emails because you work in a large office space. Or perhaps you’re extremely comfortable on the phone because your job requires it. To the outside eye, these are your strengths. But ask yourself this – how would you prefer to be communicated with?

According to the Oxford online dictionary, strength is defined as “a good or beneficial quality or attribute of a person or thing”. A preference is “a greater liking for one alternative over another or others”.

To put it simply, strength is defined from an outsider’s point of view while preference is a personal point of view.

If your job requires you to write numerous emails an hour, you’ve probably developed a strength for it. But if asked, your preference might be to pick up the phone.

We all have strengths and preferences when it comes to behaviour. Understanding what these are and how they change in different contexts can help us become more aware of ourselves and others.

Why understanding the difference matters

Think about the last team project you were assigned to. When you initially met with the team, you probably started to brainstorm ideas and assign roles. Now apply this situation to the following words: facts, logics, feelings, and possibilities.

If you had to put those in order of priority with regard to how to approach your team project, what would come out on top?

This is an introduction to some of your behavioural preferences. It’s a mirror of how you think you behave and can help you realise how similar or different you are to someone else.

If you compare your answers with co-workers’ it would be common to hear comments such as, “that’s not your preference”. This is because individuals develop strengths out of necessity or job requirements.

Think about your job requirements. What tasks do you have to complete that you’d prefer not to? What you need to remember is that you can’t judge other’s preferences the way you can judge what others are good at doing.

The challenge is to be open to others’ preferences and recognise that what you might perceive someone as being might be incorrect. If you’re working in a team, it’s also worth taking the time to understand a person’s preferences in order to draw the most out of each team member’s contribution.

Our preferences change depending on our role

Contexts are everywhere – you can’t escape them. Strengths and preferences both apply in certain contexts and not in others.

A common example is an individual who is very reserved at work but around people they know, becomes more of an extrovert.

Context is incredibly important.

For example, some individuals like to communicate with short, straight-to-the-point emails. But apply this to a customer service situation and this type of email might come across as rude. While they may be communicating how they want to be treated it’s not necessarily the approach the customer wants.

The TetraMap instrument measures people’s preferences from their own perspective. We group those similarities into Elemental symbols – Earth, Air, Water, and Fire – to help us recognise preferences to improve communication. It also tells a person that it’s okay to be the way they are no matter the Elemental scores.

Allowing for some flexibility dependent on context will help identify situations where an individual’s strengths or preferences can be used effectively.

The key challenge is to create an environment where everyone’s strengths and preferences are valued.

To learn more about how understanding preferences can transform team performance, or learn about your own Elemental preference, contact us today.

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