Helping Others to Feel Special and Appreciated: Overcoming a “Praise Deficit” In the Family
I had read an article in which the author wrote that many people have a "praise deficit." These words prompted me to think about an experience I had when I was a psychology trainee, an experience that exemplified someone practicing the opposite of a praise deficit. I had been quite anxious preparing for a presentation at Grand Rounds since I was not accustomed to speaking to large audiences, but when I finally spoke, things seemed to go well. Afterwards, my supervisor left a note in my mailbox that I had not expected. It read, "You did a great job today, Bob." That note set a positive tone for my entire year as a trainee and was a great boost to my confidence. It also demonstrated that my supervisor cared about me.
The concept of praise deficit is tied to my belief that one of our purposes in life should be to help others feel special and appreciated. Given this belief I began to ask my audiences of parents, educators, mental health professionals, and business people to consider such questions as: "Do you lead your personal and professional life in a manner that contributes to others feeling special and appreciated? Because you are on this earth, who in the last couple of weeks feels more special and appreciated? What is one thing you said or did with your husband, wife, child, colleague, business associate that you know because you said or did it helped the other person to feel more special and appreciated?" I have found that these questions prompt much reflection.
In this article I will examine the importance of overcoming praise deficits within our families in ways that communicate to our spouse, children, or other relatives that they are special in our eyes. To do so, I would like to tell you a story about my parents and "the file," a story that I hope serves as a catalyst for building your own family files.
Both of my parents were immigrants and perhaps had the equivalent of a sixth or seventh grade education (as you read what follows it will indicate that formal education is not necessarily linked to parenting skills). As I reflect upon my childhood, I realize how fortunate my brothers and I were. My parents always found simple yet powerful ways of helping us to feel special to them. Although my father worked long hours in a small store that he owned, I felt his undivided attention whenever he was with me. However, it was the "files" that my parents kept that truly reinforced this feeling of specialness.
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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