Carnegie Chronicles: What are we doing to spread positivity?

The key lesson in Chapter 2 is one that I learned some time back — the impact of appreciation and gratitude. Carnegie includes several anecdotes about instances where being appreciative resulted in positive outcomes for the appreciator, but is insistent that his recommendation is not to flatter.

He juxtaposes flattery with appreciation and points out the fundamental difference between the two: Sincerity. What Carnegie seems to advocate in this chapter is a change in mindset and how we interact with people. It takes the lessons in Chapter 1 (recap: don’t criticize) further. I see Chapter 1 as a simpler, behavioural change — how to act — whereas Chapter 2 begins advocating a deeper, psychological change — how to think.

Indeed, he is most adamant about this:

“No! No! No! I am not suggesting flattery! Far from it. I’m talking about a new way of life. Let me repeat. I am talking about a new way of life.

“Try leaving a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude on your daily trips.”

I’ve witnessed how powerful appreciation can be, and how the lack of it can demoralize. It’s one thing to go through life without spreading negativity and sourness, and this alone can take effort if we are used to complaining and criticizing. However, once we have that down, we need to ask ourselves:

What am I doing to spread positivity?

What have I done to show my gratitude?

It’s easy to assume that people know they’re doing a good job, but have we expressed our thanks for that? I had a mini-wakeup call in the form of a casual remark by a student who joked that I didn’t praise my students enough. I thought I did! I have made it a point to be encouraging, made provisions for them, said kind words to them… but as I wrote in my previous Carnegie Chronicles post:

“If you truly want to help the other person grow, you need to help them hear your message too.”

My student’s casual remark made me realise two things:

  1. Be sensitive to the different ways people communicate. Some people need to be told, “I appreciate you” because they are receptive to Words of Affirmation. It simply isn’t enough appropriate to perform an Act of Service for them, for instance.
  2. Be precise in your appreciation

Consider the difference between the two:

“Thanks!”

“Thanks for doing _____! It has helped me in ____ way 🙂

Which of these would you feel more encouraged by? Which of these would inspire you do better? I noticed this in a deeper way when a manager recently took the second route with me. I don’t think it was deliberate on her part, but her precision in identifying exactly what I was doing right encouraged further reflection on my part and made me feel like she wasn’t just being nice. (Although just being nice is a great starting point!)

It’s a matter of becoming ‘softer’, to some extent, in an otherwise hard and competitive world. The quote that Carnegie cites at the end of the chapter was particularly powerful:

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How often has someone else’s kindness towards us spurred us to be kinder to others? What if we could make the world better (even if by just a tiny margin) just by being kinder and more appreciative? Let’s strive for that. It’s possible!

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