When you go to a movie, a play or a show what do you see? At an athletic event, what do you notice? Or if someone shares an idea with you, how do you respond? Do you just look for the negative or the failure in people to tear them down, or even make yourself feel better? Are you the kind of person who immediately responds with what the weakness is, in hopes to provide constructive criticism?
If you are not either of these people, then you probably know people like this. I like to call that person Nancy, or Negative Nancy. The first person, we usually cannot stand because they just do not enjoy life and try and shut any hopes and dreams down that others have. The second person, we probably appreciate because they are trying to help fix our weaknesses. That actually sounds kind of nice and what we should be looking for when starting new ventures. However, what if I told you that there is a different approach that I would argue is more valuable?
It is called appreciations. In the book “Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision And Reality”, Scott Belsky brings this up, and I had never thought about it like this before. Essentially the idea behind appreciations, according to Jay O’Callahan, is that once you share your idea or vision, then people go around and share what they appreciated in your telling. What he says is that when we point out our strengths, we can focus on making those even greater to where they eventually fizzle out our weaknesses.
The problem with pointing out weaknesses is that we get so caught up in trying to fix them that we do not even seen the beauty of the strengths that we have, and we actually limit the strength. Alisa Cohn wrote an article in Forbes that positive feedback is an incredibly powerful tool. It helps build up our employees and co workers to enhance them to do their best work. It makes them more confident and comfortable.
According to TD.org, in a poll of 500 employees who have a recognition program at work, 87% have good relationships with their managers and are happier employees. Companies with no recognition program, only 51% say they have a good relationships with their managers.
I am sure constructive criticism has its role, but honestly, which is harder to point out? Something that someone did wrong? Or something incredibly impressive that a person was able to do? Negative thoughts slip into my mind so easily when people tell me their thoughts and ideas, but it is hard for me to conjure good and positive thoughts.
We as humans, believe that giving criticism is actually harder than giving appreciations. O’Callahan would argue that it is actually the opposite because truly knowing what “greatness” is takes a lot of practice. Knowing when something is wrong is easy to see. An example he used was in a piece of music, is it easier to hear a wrong note played? Or to hear how a specific note changes the entire emotion and feel of a song, elevating it to the next level.
Giving appreciations can be incredibly difficult, but I think that we should pursue this form of helping people when they are willing to bring ideas to us. If we are constantly shutting them down, we are hurting them form actually chasing their dreams and reaching their full potential. Lets build people up and help them achieve what we know they are capable of.
- Cohn, Alisa. “In Praise Of Positive Feedback.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 21 July 2017, http://www.forbes.com/sites/alisacohn/2017/07/21/in-praise-of-positive-feedback/#2771ca336db6.
- “The Importance of Positive Feedback.” Main, ASTD Press, 12 Oct. 2017, http://www.td.org/newsletters/the-buzz/the-importance-of-positive-feedback.
- Belsky, Scott. Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles between Vision and Reality. Portfolio, 2012.