I don't know much about ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) but I strongly believe that as a society we have a serious problem with Appreciation Deficit Disorder!. Most of us are experts at criticism and critiquing but when it comes to genuinely and effectively appreciating the good in others, we find ourselves at sea!
But there are always exceptions. For example, a friend of mine who has been teaching for several years now has made genuine appreciation a way of life. She teaches senior classes in school and like all teachers, has to facilitate parent-teacher meetings (PTMs).
A word about PTMs -- I don't know how it was for you, but as a kid, that was the one day of the year I dreaded most, for that was the day all my "sins" caught up with me. I would actually tear up the PTM note from the school (this was in the days before email) and when my parents would ask me, "So when's the PTM?" I would say things like, "They've decided not to have it this year."
[I]t takes about three positive comments, experiences or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative.
Of course, I never got away with it and every year I found myself sitting very nervously in front of my teacher with my parent/s by my side.
The only thing I can accurately compare those PTMs to, is waiting at the dentist's for a root canal. Those were painful and tense experiences. It didn't matter how much good I had done (or thought I had done) that semester, invariably my mistakes and shortcomings got all the attention and left me feeling like a hopeless incompetent -- and my parents feeling like the parents of a hopeless incompetent.
There was a reason why "The Wall" by Pink Floyd was my favourite album.
Back to my friend, the school teacher. Here's what she does at PTMs. She actually puts up a sign at the back of the room with the following words:
"While you are waiting your turn, kindly write down three of your child's strengths and good qualities, and if you like, one area you feel they could do better in."
What do you think that does to the atmosphere in the room?
Pleasantly surprised parents end up focusing on their kids' strengths and listing them in front of their kids. The class teacher often adds a few of her own. Students end up feeling respected. Their "weaknesses" are treated in perspective and viewed as normal growing experiences and not the end of the world. The traditionally dreaded PTM thus becomes a positive, productive learning experience for both parents and their children.
Is it any wonder, then, that this teacher is loved by her students and respected by their parents? Is it also any wonder that her class does brilliantly in academics and in co-curricular activities?
This teacher has understood the principle of the "Losada Line" -- a term coined by psychologist Marcial Losada who has done a decade of research on high- and low-performance teams. He ends his presentations with the words, "Remember the number 2.9013."
Teams, organisations, classrooms and relationships flourish in an atmosphere of positiveness, not in one of constant censure.
What he means is, based on extensive research and mathematical modelling, 2.9013 is the ratio of positive to negative interactions necessary to make a team successful. This means that it takes about three positive comments, experiences or expressions to fend off the languishing effects of one negative. Dip below this tipping point, now known as the Losada Line, and workplace performance quickly suffers. Rise above it -- ideally, the research shows, to a ratio of 5 positive to 1 negative -- and teams produce their very best work!
Teams, organisations, classrooms and relationships flourish in an atmosphere of positiveness, not in one of constant censure. People who feel genuinely appreciated trust each other more, learn to disagree without being disagreeable, care about others' success and most of all, obtain tangible results.
Sounds like common sense, doesn't it? But, then, how often do we see common sense translating into common practice?
Let's stay well above the Losada Line! And to those who have made appreciation and positive reinforcement a way of life...
May your tribe increase!
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