I had a boss — a couple actually —who loved to tell me what I was doing wrong. Or, if I had just successfully closed a deal, they would tell me what they would have done to to make it even better (thanks buddy for telling me *afterwards*). Or how about the boyfriends for whom I bought a new outfit, got my nails done, put makeup on, and spritzed some perfume…and then they mentioned they didn’t care for my shoes? When did it become so easy to be negative? When did it become second-nature for people to be mean, hypercritical, or uber-judgmental?
One day when I was toiling away in a very toxic work environment, someone said something nice to me out of the clear blue. They complimented me on a job well done. Those few words packed quite the punch because they were so different from everything else I had heard in a long time. It acknowledged my hard work, my talent, and my success in closing the deal. Those few words changed me. I realized in that moment how powerful it can be for someone to receive a compliment. I realized in myself how easy it is to be negative, say something mean, or criticize someone, and that flipping your feedback towards positivity has a much more powerful impact. And not just for the person receiving the positivity, but for everyone around as well since kindness certainly has a trickle down effect.
I have lost sight of this old lesson lately and I need to re-direct my thoughts, my words, and my deeds. It has become too easy to comment behind closed doors or in whispers to a friend about someone else’s appearance, how they raise their kids, their marriage (we’re all experts, right?), personal finances, and career choices. I can only imagine what people say about me! And I shudder to think how much of it is not true…
I don’t think I am alone here.
I know that I need to stop and think before I speak. I need to remember that saying something nice is much more rewarding for everyone. Whenever I manage employees, I always try to balance the constructive criticism on under-performing yearly review items with equal parts recognition of success and acknowledgment of improvement. With friends, family, and especially my husband, I try, and oftentimes do not succeed, in saying two good things for every one negative comment that slips out. For instance: Honey, sweetheart, it drives me crazy when you leave ooey gooey leftover food in the sink without rinsing it down the drain. But I appreciate that you put your dishes in the sink and don’t leave them lying around the house. And I love that you often clean the kitchen for me when I am beyond exhausted. Yes, it is a silly example, but you get the point, right?
Now, this doesn’t always work because you need to be clear headed and not in a huffy puffy moment. These days, with twins who are still nursing around the clock, I am not very level-headed and my husband has been taking the punches without much positive reinforcement. I need to stop, breathe, and tell him more often how awesome he is. That he does more than any other husband I know. And that I love him more every day for putting up with me because these days, I am honestly not so nice. I really am nice at my core, I swear! I know I can’t keep waiting to catch up on sleep, for my body to spring back to the way it was, or for my life to become any less hectic. I need to find a way back to my old complimenting self on my own and stop making excuses.
I think we all miss opportunities or make excuses. It only takes a moment to tell someone they did a good job, you liked the picture they posted, they look particular fabulous today, you admire them for this, you appreciate them for that, or their new chinchilla is adorable. All it takes is a few seconds and means so much to the other person. It means you noticed them. It means you were present. It means you care. I certainly could use more of that in my life and I know that it needs to start with me.