I have often admired those extremely positive people who seem to always have a pleasant disposition, a smile or a friendly comment to share with others. Being a positive influence on those around us seems to be a gift that some have and that character trait causes them to stand out from the crowd.
I love my job of serving high school students and their parents! As a result of working with kids for the past thirty years I have become an observer of student behavior. I can honestly assert that the communication student's display has become more and more negative over the years. I attribute this to the media they listen to and observe on television. You will notice that much of the communication on television shows is mostly about put-downs and making fun of others. These negative comments are rewarded with canned laughter. I have seen this same behavior become the norm for teen interactions and adult interactions.
The negative interactions, cutting remarks, making fun of others are always at someone else's expense, of course. But that is not what is focused upon. It is the humor in the put downs. The complaining and the criticizing. Unfortunately, it seems that that has become common place in society. What do they refer to this as? "Life imitating art"?
On the other hand, we all enjoy compliments, encouragement, and praise and feel good conversations. The positive folks in our lives are "worth their weight in gold"! They make a difference in our daily lives. One psychologist said we need at least twelve hugs a day for optimal emotional health. Author Virginia Avery (Categories: Using Your Speaking Power) suggests it takes seven compliments to overcome the effect of one criticism. The power of our words is incredible. We all know the children's rhyme that goes like this: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Well that simply is not true. The power of words can be far more damaging and lasting than sticks and stones. Because words can crucify our souls. We must learn to be generous with praise and careful with our criticism. I was speaking with a senior cheerleader today who shared with me the hurtful words that she overheard someone say about her last week at the football game in the stands. Idle criticism for sure but painful nonetheless. I raised my own son with careful attention to the words I used towards him. He so desired to please me and his mom that our words of praise lit him up inside. You could see it all over his face. And any criticism had the potential to break him. So we carefully encouraged him, built him up with praise to raise his self-esteem and were careful to guide him with correction.
Don't get me wrong here. Kids need to be corrected, for sure! But how we do that makes all the difference. Fill their hearts with praise and dole out correction and criticism like a careful surgeon. We have the power to heal or the ability to kill a child's soul with our words. And believe it or not, adults also react similarly to praise as well as to gossip, slander and criticism.
Each of us has power with words - written or spoken. We need to use that power to build up one another and make healthy friendships, work environments and home-lives.
I would like to share one of my favorite poems from Dorothy Law Nolte:
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, He learns to find love in the world.
Let's choose to be positive influences in the lives of those we touch. It may be different kinds of communication than we are used to, but let's give it our best effort. Habits are hard to break, that is for certain. But how we communicate to and about others is perhaps one of life's most important habits to create.