Put Your Best Self Forward: The reflected best-self exercise
Do you remember the last time you were extraordinary at work? I’m sure you can recall several moments when your best efforts were recognized and affirmed by others. Memories like these create a portrait of our “best selves” and can help us create a personal vision of who we can become. This portrait or vision is called the reflected best self (RBS).
Let’s break the term down to better understand its purpose. “Reflected” refers the idea that our self-concept is based on our perception of how others view us. The word “Best” emphasizes that the focus is on our strengths, contributions, and enduring talents. In their article, “Composing the Reflected Best-Self Portrait,” Quinn et al. (2003) propose that we become even more extraordinary when we seek out feedback from others about our strengths and use this information to create a Reflected Best-Self Portrait. By envisioning ourselves at our best, we can then act on this vision to translate possibilities into realities.
The RBS is an exercise that you might use in coaching or OD practice to help individuals and organizations increase their success. It’s also an excellent strategy to boost the morale and confidence of workers so they can do great work. When we are in touch with the qualities and characteristics we display when we are at our best, we can then more readily duplicate that performance in new settings to become even more extraordinary. In essence, we can increase our human capital and evolve in the direction of our capability and potential (Coleman, 1988). What’s unique about RBS is that all feedback solicited is positive in nature. Rather than asking others to tell us what we are doing wrong, we ask them to tell us what we are doing right.
If this sounds like something you’d like to try yourself or use as a tool with others, you can learn more about the RBS process which involves soliciting positive feedback from others (who doesn’t like compliments?) and using the feedback to construct a self-portrait of abilities.
What are your thoughts about RBS? Do you see yourself applying the process to yourself? Why or why not?
Coleman, James S. “Social capital in the creation of human capital.” American journal of sociology (1988): S95-S120.
Quinn, Robert E., et al. “Reflected Best Self Exercise.” Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship, University of Michigan (2003).
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