phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

To play to my strengths

Posted by Smokey Stover on April 24, 2006

In Reply to: To play to my strengths posted by taka on April 24, 2006

: hi, thanks for good answers to my questions, but I got another one to ask youse all,

: to play to my strengths what does it mean? I could not find any good context or example for that!

In a game or a contest, a good coach or player, or general in the case of the game of war, tries to know (or guess) his opponent's strengths and weaknesses. He presumably already knows his own. To play to your opponent's weaknesses means to devise your strategy and make your moves in a way that takes advantage of these weaknesses. You also try to take advantage of your own strengths, play to them.
If the opposing football team has crowded the scrimmage line with strong tacklers when your team has the ball, perhaps his backfield is scattered and weak. You play to his weakness by a passing play. That requires that your strength include at least one good passer and a couple of good receivers. Of course, the other guys are playing to YOUR weaknesses, which may include a lack of good passing quarterbacks. If your team has neither good passers nor good running backs, you might as well just go off and party with the cheerleaders.

On the battlefield, there are a numerous factors that can be turned into strengths or weaknesses. In the course of history many battles were won because a general knew how to exploit or play to his enemy's weakness or play to his own strength even though the forces appeared to be evenly matched, or even when the winning general appeared to have the poorer prospects.

The phrase is often used figuratively as well. In a job interview you may have more success if you can play to your strengths (and downplay your weaknesses). When you "sell yourself" (as they always advise you to do), you are putting your best foot forward, playing to your strengths. Your salesmanship may, in fact, be your strength. If not, and your strength is your technical ability, you had better play it up, or play to it, make your pitch primarily on that ability.

One other point: you used the word (or no[word removed in order to comply with Google's Publisher Policy]) "youse." Is that a typo, or has someone persuaded you that youse is the plural of you? SS