“Atta Boy!”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of encouragement in our lives. I have come to the conclusion that no matter how large or small the task a person is trying to accomplish, without someone supporting and encouraging him or her, it is nearly impossible to finish the deal.

I can be really excited about something and straining at the bit to get started, and all it takes is one negative comment from someone whose opinion I care about and I’m ready to go take a nap. For me, it is more than just a psychological letdown, too. I physically get tired. I lose momentum and interest, and no amount of coffee can overpower the ensuing physical and mental depression.

On the other hand, a small dose of encouragement can carry me a long way. It gives me affirmation that what I am doing is worthwhile. And if you want to know what great encouragement looks/sounds like, check out what my friend Nikomas had to say. Encouragement like that gives you gas in the tank to keep going even when it gets difficult and you want to buckle under the pressure.

When I was teaching elementary school, we had an in-service training from some behavior specialists, and they told us that the ideal ratio of positive to negative comments for cultivating a productive classroom was at least 20 positive to one negative. Twenty to one. Of course, they realized we could never accomplish this in the real world and told us to shoot for more like four to one, but even that can be a challenge at times.

I’ve been trying to put these ideas into practice in my life.  It’s a lot harder to build people up than it is to tear them down, but it’s also a lot more important.  It can be especially challenging with my kids, because–let’s be honest–they drive me crazy.  But when I discovered how much this positive/negative balance affects me, I realized that I really don’t have a choice.  Their future depends on it.


3 thoughts on ““Atta Boy!”

  1. I see that a lot on the coaching floor as well. While putting in a new offense from the varsity down to the lowly freshmen (that’s me!!!) we were strongly told commend quickly the good decisions and good passes and shot selections. And while I try to do that anyway, I probably was lacking before that. It truly is amazing the confidence that builds in them, when taught that way.

    I have heard another coach say “commend loudly across the floor and whisper criticism”…good thoughts

    btw…your blog is great! One of only a few that I check continuously. keep up the good work!

    • I’m not sure whether to take your compliment as ironic or not, but I appreciate it just the same.

      I really like the “whisper criticism” line. So often what we see as trying to help turns into humiliation. Nikomas actually put up a new post today about encouragement vs. criticism and kind of stole my thunder, but it’s a another great read on the subject in addition to the one I referenced if you get a chance.

  2. I see what you’re talking about while working with teens too. When leading our student bands it is really easy to point out where the mistakes are, “Your guitar is out of tune” or “That transition needs work”. But it’s a lot harder to remember to point out when things sound good…mainly because that’s what we expect to happen. But I’ve found they take the criticism better when it’s followed and preceeded by encouragement. “You’re nailing that riff! If you tune your guitar it’ll sound even better!”

    Good words, Andy.

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