THE POWER OF RECOGNITION
By: H. Reed Emsick, Uvolv Senior Analyst
I do not recall giving much thought to what I wanted to do with my life when I was very young. My earliest recollection is related to an event that occurred when I was about 10 years old. I remember the scene as though it was just yesterday. I was alone with my grandmother Margaret in her kitchen and out of the blue she said to me “Reed I think you would be a good medical doctor”. That threw me for quite a loop. At that time, I was not a very good student, or at least that is the way I saw myself. I thought she was just trying to make me feel good but then she went on to say, “people like to talk to you and you are very good at figuring things out”. The words “very good” flashed in my mind as though they were a neon sign. I knew I was a good “fixer” but had no idea it was a unique and special gift and I had never really given much thought to the importance of the roles of relationships.
Over time, as I thought more about what she said to me, I remember comparing myself to my friends and siblings I realized that I really was in fact quite good at solving problems. I remember one of my friends saying let’s ask Reed, I bet he can figure it out. I also noticed that people seemed to want to talk to me a lot, especially adults. I thoroughly enjoyed discussions with them a great deal. Today 60+ years later, I frequently reflect on that special moment in my grandmother’s kitchen and how it changed me for the better.
My purpose for telling this story here is to illustrate how we learn about our strengths and talents. Others “see” us in ways that we cannot possibly “see” ourselves. For the most part, it is only through the eyes of others that we can “see” ourselves most clearly. This is where friends, family, coaches, teachers, directors and managers come in. These are the people that can give a child the best and most meaningful insight about themselves. They can provide encouragement to find a developmental path that will ensure they will realize the most of their unique complement of strengths.
At a young age, most of us simply do not have the knowledge to know what is special about ourselves. On the other hand, we likely know much more about what we are NOT good at. Why is it that others think it is their primary duty to point out our failings to us? I am sure it is an attempt to fix us and it rarely turns out the way that is intended. Most of us are pretty good at fixing ourselves when we are clear about realistic goals and expectations and the personal strengths that we have been given to work with.
We always do more good when handing out recognition than critiquing. When something special or extraordinary happens, don’t let the moment go by without giving some sort of acknowledgment or applause. A simple compliment can make it a very special and coveted form of achievement. Young students, athletes and performers thrive on hearing these encouraging words.
I really don’t know why it is so difficult to create an environment of positivity for our youth. Perhaps the observers simply do not recognize the achievement because they were not looking for it or because they were unwittingly concerned about the myths suggesting that too much praise might give a person a “big head”. Another one often heard is that “if we praise them too much they will stop striving to improve”. These ideas are simply nonsense! If the praise is phony or supercilious then it would be destructive but praise for real earned achievement is necessary and always helpful. Psychological studies have repeatedly proven that when accomplishments are recognized (pointed out), they tend to be repeated. I ask to think about a time when you may have received too much earned praise. I bet answer is NEVER.
If I still have not convinced you about the power of recognition think about this. Recognition works for mistakes as well. Of course, mistakes need to be dealt with but when the mistake to compliment ratio leans towards mistakes, you will get more mistakes.
I continuously remind everyone to be on watch to “catch” someone doing something good or special TODAY. Then be sure to tell them what you saw. I encourage you to try it out. Positivity is contagious and will make home, school, work, and all activities much more enjoyable. Uvolv believes in the power of positivity. Recognition of a student’s strengths or gifts can change a child’s life. It is so beneficial when children know they have the support of their parents/guardians, coaches, principals, teachers, directors and the community.
By: H. Reed Emsick, Uvolv Senior Analyst