My job as a trainer includes this task of fearlessly delivering bad news when people get unwanted results after all the hard work they have exerted. I must admit that most of the time, this is heartbreaking, but as I talk to them, I have to make sure that I am able to deliver it with empathy, and be able to keep the mood positive. I try my best to make the other person feel that they are not being rejected, but rather encouraged to move forward to something greater ahead of them.
One day in the assessment week, a trainee approached me with excitement after taking the exam asking, “So, how did I do?”. Unfortunately, she failed, and I was caught off-guard and stuttered for a little bit, and said, “Looks like you are about to become great, but not here, maybe somewhere“. Then, I invited her in the meeting room to discuss that it’s going to be her last day, and she needs to find other opportunities outside.
About to become great…
As Christians, we need to see people for who they are about to become and not for who they are right now. We can easily see the mess, defects, and imperfections from anybody but we need to take a step further and see something good about them because after all, we have our own. That’s where affirmation comes in. Affirmation means to declare something positively or firmly about a person; to support or uphold the validity of a person; to confirm them — despite of all the negative things that you can see. Affirm comes from the root of a Latin word which means, “to strengthen” , thus, saying words that will strengthen the person or saying something that will encourage him to be great.
But we have a problem here. Today’s world is teaching that affirmation is a bad thing. The world says that affirmation coming from ourselves is “egotistical” while affirming someone might give that person “the big head”. Whether coming from ourselves or from others, affirmation is something that people need to stay positive despite of all the negativity that surrounds them.
Unspoken Need for Affirmation
I’ve been talking to a lot of people – professionals, youth, single, married people, and even strangers. Some of them has different kinds of frustrations and some has been suffering from symptoms of depression, while some are okay and just enjoying life. When the conversations go deep, I would often hear words like,
“How I wish they can see that…”
“They hate me for that…”
“I haven’t heard anything good…”
“They always say that…”
and a lot more, with the context of “I’ve never been good enough” or “I’m not doing anything right”. In employee satisfaction surveys, there will always be items like “I receive recognition from my accomplishments” and “I feel appreciated for the work that I’m doing” because companies need to make sure that they give rewards for the contributions that their employees give and most of the time, these does not require any form of rewards, but a simple “Good Job” from the boss is enough.
No one would explicitly say “I need you to say something good about me” or “I need to hear affirmations from you” but clearly, everyone needs it. It’s not just theoretical — yes, there is science behind it. According to studies, positive affirmations create positive connections between nerves in your brain. When you think positive thoughts, your brain releases chemicals related to those positive emotions. Negative thoughts tend to destroy these connections leading to serious conditions and one of those is depression.
What About Adding Value
Each of us wants to create a positive impact to our friends, loved ones, or colleagues. Most of the time, we don’t know where to start but if you come to think of what you are doing most of the time, you talk… and you can start from there. Why not inject some words of affirmation as you talk over dinner, in the car, or while waiting in a long queue while paying your bills? What about sending a quick chat saying that he/she looks good in her profile picture? Or maybe tell the waiter that he’s done an amazing job serving your food? It does not require any material thing. It doesn’t hurt appreciating someone (it would even feel good if they will return the affirmation. Affirmation helps people feel good about themselves and when they do, they perform well, they become more energetic, they feel uplifted and are able to uplift others as well.
As you finish reading, why not start giving words of affirmation to someone today? Then try to do it as often as you can to develop a habit of saying something good about someone to strengthen them, uphold their validity, and help them thrive in whatever they’re doing.
References: Philine S. Harris, Peter R. Harris, Eleanor Miles. Self-affirmation improves performance on tasks related to executive functioning Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 70 (2017) 281–285.