There's a simple truth that may seem obvious but is easy to forget: be aware of how others interpret what you are saying.
Even positive feedback delivered in the wrong way can be like a pin pricking the skin of a balloon -- it can cause instant and dramatic deflation.
Sometimes when we mean to give a compliment, the way we do it -- either in delivery or what we say -- actually cuts someone down. For instance, in observing "Joe" learning a new skill, you may intend to pat him on the back when you say, "Wow, I never thought you would get this far!" But you're really pointing out how lacking in skills he was when he started. That won't make anyone feel good. Instead, be inspiring by confirming the positive: "I'd like to compliment you on your progress!"
It takes five positive interactions to dilute one negative interaction in a relationship, if we want that relationship to grow. This is true in both professional and personal relationships. Lack of positive interactions can lead to disengagement, differing agendas and sometimes the end of the relationship.
Think of developing your relationships this way: what can you do to make positive deposits into the emotional bank accounts you have with the key people in your life?
For one, you can point out what someone did well -- that's affirming. As Charles Schwab said, people do better under a "spirit of approval than under a spirit of criticism." Schwab understood that a person whose fear of failure outweighs her desire to succeed will feel stifled.If you want to develop star performers, make it a habit to affirm even the smallest moves in the right direction, especially when you see employees taking steps to shift out of fear and improve their performance.
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