Strengths strategy: Reverse pairing

woman in glasses sitting backwards on a chair

Sometimes doing things in reverse can get you better results – and this insight has led to one of the most counterintuitive strategies in The Strenths Deck – reverse pairing.

Some years ago, I was working with a client and discussing the strategies she was using to make wise use of her Genius1 strengths (the things she’s great at and loves doing).

Genius strengths goal: wise use

If you’ve read some of my other articles, you’ll have come across the idea of wise use of your Genius strengths. The temptation, when we really love something and do it very well, is to use it all the time. But overuse can lead us to burn out the strength, annoy the people around us with our apparent fixation, or a combination of both!

Wise use is about knowing when to dial the strength use up, and when to dial it down.

Typically, when we look at your strengths across The Strengths Deck Matrix, we start with the Zone of Genius, and look at how you can use these strengths to support your performance and wellbeing when strengths from others Zones (especially Indifference2 or Reputation3) need to be used.

We also look at what’s in your Zone of Genius, and find alternative strengths you can use to stop yourself from relying too much on your top one or two strengths in this Zone. This is strengths-pairing in action.

Reverse pairing your strengths

My client’s alternative strategy was brilliant. She was aware that she often overplays one of her Genius strengths, and this has some real downsides for her and those around her.

We talked about the standard approach of dialling up other Genius strengths, but it wasn’t really resonating with her. Then she had a flash of inspiration – she recognised that one of her Reputation strengths was perfect for helping her to dial down her high-use Genius strength.

This is reverse pairing in action – start from the low-Preference side of the Matrix and look at how you can use these strengths artfully to enhance your overall wellbeing and results. You might be surprised at what you discover!


1 Genius: high Preference, high Performance. “I’m great at this and love doing it”

2 Indifference: low Preference, low Performance. “I’m not great at this and I don’t like it”

3 Reputation: low Preference, high Performance. “I’m great at this but I don’t like it”

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