Compliments and other positive forces

Posted by Madbot on Mar 7, 2006 in Workplace Observation |

This will eventually develop into a workplace theory of sorts..

Taking an extended break from work is like a breath of fresh air. Sure, it didn’t do the bank balance any good and the “extended” part of it means I have some catch up to play, but it did give me a different look on what goes on at the workplace.

Earlier this year, I had noted to myself that it’d be a good idea to lose the cynicism and focus on the positive side instead – but wait, would my friends still recognise me if I’m no longer the cynical prick? Oh there I go again and how the hell did I become this way? Anyway, it has been a curious journey the last month or two as I made a point to pay more attention to this aspect of life.

The truth is, it’s easy to fall back into being cynical – it’s easy, I know how it works, I’m comfortable with it, there is little risk and there is little commitment. Over the past month or so I was lucky to be involved in numerous situations where I could observe different personality styles, one of which is “being positive”.

First aspect: Positive feedback

The Chinese side in me teaches me that giving compliments (read: positive feedback) is not necessarily a good thing. To demonstrate this point, Chinese has a phrase “Wolf wishing a rooster a happy new year”. Substitute “wolf” for whatever animal that eats chickens. And the meaning of this phrase is “no good intentions”.

So what this translates to is that when someone is being nice, or extra nice, to you, be aware of their intentions.

The Australian/western education in me tells me that kissing arse is a bad thing.

So what I end up with is that when someone gives you a compliment, take it with a grain of salt. While this is a fair enough for everyday life, it also meant I don’t often compliment people unless I really really meant it – if you receive a compliment from me, you can be top dollar that I was genuinely impressed.

So the issues here are:

  • I don’t take compliments well
  • I rarely give compliments
  • The first one causes some minor issues but is acceptable. However, I begin to notice more and more that I should do better at the second option there as most people either:

    1. don’t perceive it as a negative as they do not have the same belief as me (ie. wolf kissing chicken’s arse is fine)
    2. perceive it as a positive thing.

    Of course, there is a style of giving compliments, or positive feedback, that go across better and I need more practices on that. Recently I was able to observe some individuals deliver compliments in some exceptional manner and doing it repeatedly that even had positive effects on my cynical self. It was well done.

    So self note here for a potential workplace theory later.

    Second aspect: Hope

    Last night Emma and I sat down to watch the latest episode of Battlestar Galactica where the chick president is having a presidential election debate with the vice president dude.

    The vice president dude was losing on all popularity surveys until the fleet discovered a well-hidden planet capable of supporting life and he presented his point of view for the fleet to settle on the planet. This of course is a simply stupid as it’s only a matter of time before the cylons find them, and means an end to the series (the series is about a specific spaceship, after all).

    The president took the logical approach and declared it a stupid idea but people were charmed by the dream painted by the vice president. The vice president dude then declared the president chick uses scare/fear tactics, but he offered “hope”.

    While this is just a TV drama, the logic here does, in my opinion, represent what happens at the workplace. The people who offer hope usually get a bigger following than the ones that seek to control using scare/fear tactics. The logical people tend to worry about being unable to deliver on the promises – but hey, when is the last time you remember a politician delivering all their promises?

    Herein lies the issue. Is it really a commitment just because you say it is?


    I’ll need to think on this some more but the conclusion here is that both of these aspects help shaping people’s beliefs (into what you want) and generates a more positive force (towards the direction you want).

    It’s safe to say that these two are very useful tools and their construction and delivery should be often practised.


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