When I heard Laura Trice explain how she was really bad at giving praise, that she really wanted to do it but found it hard, I knew that this was a talk I really had to listen to. I am really bad at praising and thanking people. I feel very uncomfortable and self-conscious doing it, and I always feel that it sounds stilted and forced. But rest assured any of you that I have ever actually thanked, it is always genuine – it is so uncomfortable for me that I wouldn't even attempt to fake it!
This is one thing about myself I've never really understood because I am a people pleaser and it’s not like thanking or praising someone makes me vulnerable – but I'm still really bad at it.
So maybe it isn't strange that I am also really bad at receiving thanks and praise. I just never know quite how to respond to it – the standard response for something I've done is to just dismiss it as nothing much, even if I've worked my fingers to the bone for it. If it is a compliment of some sort, well I think I've been pretty clear how I feel about that.
Activity 2 addresses some of these issues as it is 30 days of thanks, praise and mindfulness. What that means is the application of three talks into my day to day life.
- Mark Bezos: a life lesson from a volunteer firefighter – from which I am taking the lesson that every day offers us the opportunity to affect someone’s life. So this will be a mindfulness thing where each day I have to think about something simple that might positively affect someone around me.
- Karen Armstrong: Let’s revive the Golden Rule – ignoring some of the more in depth “compassion” elements of the talk for the moment, and totally ignoring the religious aspect of it (I’ll talk about that later) I will try to apply the “do unto others…” rule into my everyday life. Again this is a mindfulness thing, but as Karen explains the other way of expressing the Golden Rule is in the positive “Always treat all others as you’d like to be treated yourself”, which I am taking to be more proactive - involving praise, thanks and possibly doing positive things for people.
- Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you – this is about asking for the praise that you want to receive as well as praising others. As I've already mentioned this will involve breaking two things that I am really bad at, giving praise and thanks to others and asking people to praise me.
As I've mentioned this is not something that I can really do all that well, which was why I realised at Day 2 of Activity 1 that I probably should have done this activity first. I have received quite a few compliments in the last week and, whilst I'm getting better at acknowledging them, my usual internal response is “aarrrggghhhh!”, and these are just compliments not real praise!
More importantly, I had a minor (yes Derek it was minor!) meltdown last week about the blog and my writing with Derek. It was at that point that I sort of realised that I had never really given Derek any idea on the praise that I might or might not require. I had mentioned to him that I needed him to comment on the clothes I was wearing a little more than he usually does. What I had failed to mention was anything about the blog and my writing, which is considerably more important to me and my feeling of self-worth than my physical appearance (I know that must shock you all!).
What I want out of this challenge is to be one of those people who can spontaneously and comfortably thank and praise others, without feeling self-conscious. More importantly, without thinking about myself at all in that process, just focusing on them and having a positive impact on their day.
For the next 30 days I will focus on praising and thanking others, and other ways I might be able to positively affect them. I will also try, notice the use of the word try, to open up with people and let them know how and when I need to be praised. Importantly, because I really don’t receive it all that well I don’t require a lot of praise in my life. I think what I need to work out is how I want to be praised/thanked, how am I comfortable receiving that?
This will require a great deal of mindfulness about the other people around me generally, but that will be good because over the last two weeks I have felt that I am focusing way too much on me and this gives me an external focus again.
I also want to really try to apply the Golden Rule for the 30 days, to see if I can keep that in mind, particularly around some of the people in my workplace.