Yesterday I wrote about how your greatest strength can also be your greatest weakness. How can that principle apply when you’re trying to help someone else address their area of weakness? I’ve found it works best to first start by using yourself as an example before address other peoples’ weaknesses.
Once when I was speaking to a German group, I felt I needed to bring a word about how some cultural issues were getting in the way of their ministry. But as an outsider, I certainly didn’t want to come across as attacking another person’s culture. So I started by sharing how the principle “your greatest strength is your greatest weakness” works with Americans. I said, “As a country, we in the U.S. have a can-do attitude. We believe we can do anything, and we’re innovative trying to figure things out. That’s quite wonderful, but the downside of that strength is that we think get can get into other people’s business and be arrogant trying to tell them what to do.”
I got cheers for this statement, by the way.
Then I asked them to think about some classic German strengths: quality, perfection, German engineering, analytical capacity. “That’s a tremendous strength. The corresponding weakness is that you can find fault in anything. You can find the cloud inside the silver lining.”
Especially when traveling internationally, and especially when I don’t know the culture well, I find it helpful to start with the log in my own eye. I often lead with, “I don’t know if you face this problem here, but in the U.S. we deal with this issue….” More often than not, people are nodding their heads. Most problems cross cultural lines. And we can deal with them best by starting with an honest look at our own.