Helping Others to Feel Special and Appreciated: Overcoming a “Praise Deficit”
A number of years ago I received a draft of an article about disciplining children. One phrase in the article especially caught my attention. The author wrote that many people have a “praise deficit.” As I read the words “praise deficit” I immediately thought about an experience that had occurred years earlier when I was a psychology trainee, an experience that had a marked impact on my life.
As a trainee I was asked to present at my first clinical Grand Rounds. This was the beginning of my career and I was not accustomed to speaking to large audiences. To be honest, I was a nervous wreck. I thought of all of the things that could go wrong, which of course served to heighten my anxiety. Fantasies of forgetting what I wanted to say, of losing my place, of sweating profusely, of collapsing on stage pervaded my thinking. Adding to my anxiety was the fact that most of the people in the audience were staff and trainees I would continue to see every day. While some might say that having familiar people in the audience should lessen one’s anxiety, all I could think about was that if I really fell on my face (figuratively and literally) I would have to face these people day in and day out. I even entertained the irrational fear that if I failed miserably those in attendance would continue to whisper for the remainder of the year, “There’s the psychology trainee who made a fool of himself.” It’s amazing the kinds of thoughts that are triggered when in a state of anxiety.
I spent hours preparing for my presentation, reviewing with my supervisor what I planned to say. The day arrived and before I knew it I was sitting on stage ready to be introduced. I had once read that if you are nervous when giving a speech just imagine that the members of the audience are nude and your anxiety will decrease. I glanced at the audience, but my imagination failed me--I found it difficult to think of my supervisors sitting in the audience without clothes. Before I could consider other advice to lessen my stage fright it was time for me to speak.
Permission to reprint granted by Dr. Robert Brooks. All rights reserved.
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