Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Question Mark fuschia.jpgA reader commented on my post called Giving Back: Kind Words. She said that while she has a nice boss and knows she does a good job, her boss isn’t forthcoming with appreciation. She asked why it seems that people have an easier time giving critical feedback and seem to be unable or unwilling to express compliments when the work is good. She also wondered how to stop waiting for appreciation, give less credence to the negatives and more to the positives.

Criticism is often easier because negative emotions motivate expressing what’s wrong. Showing appreciation is learned and many people haven’t learned.

My reader acknowledged getting positive vibes when she does a good job. But most of us need more! It’s natural to want to be verbally appreciated. And for those of us who can express ourselves more easily, it’s hard to understand how many people aren’t used to giving kind words. Your boss may assume you know you’re doing a good job and doesn’t feel it’s necessary to tell you. Some people are just uncomfortable trying to express appreciation. They may not have been valued growing up and don’t have a reference for how to acknowledge the good in others.

Unless you know someone well, you don’t know what their underlying issues are. Some people feel so negative about themselves that they can only recognize negatives in others.

It’s important to remind yourself that the lack of appreciation often is NOT about you. It’s about the other person’s inability to express gratitude or give compliments. As long as you know you’re doing a good job, don’t take it personally. Of course you still want to hear the words. I still do, even though my self-esteem and confidence is high. When I get all dolled up to go out and my date says nothing, I feel bad, even though I know I look good. It’s just human nature.

We all want to feel appreciated for what we do. That’s why I wrote my post–to encourage saying kind things to people.

Giving appreciation can attract more for you. Sometimes if you show appreciation for the person you want to get it from, it can spur some kind words back. And, if the person does express some kind words, let him or her know that it means a lot to hear those words. If you have a good rapport with your boss, as the reader seems to, ask for a few minutes of your boss’ time. In a very friendly way, ask for feedback on the job you’re doing.

Your boss may  be surprised that you’re not feeling his or her approval.

I once worked on a project and the head was a very stern figure who was quick to point out what anyone did wrong, but not what we did right. One day I asked, in a joking tone, if he thought I did anything right. He was shocked, telling me I did a great job. How could I ask what he considered a silly question. ” Because you never say anything positive to me,” I replied. He said he never thought about that but would in the future. It actually became a private joke between us and strengthened our rapport. While he didn’t shower me with compliments, he made an effort to let me know when I did well, because I made him aware of doing so.

If you try but still can’t get any appreciation, focus on appreciating yourself. Keep a written record of what you do right.

Write down all compliments and kind words you get. Read them often. Find a comforting affirmation or two for the times you get critical words. “I did my best and will try harder next time.” My positive qualities greatly outweigh an occasional mistake.”

And, the MOST important for this reader: “Nobody is perfect but I’m very good as I am!”

The reader said she’s afraid of failing which is why she craves the positive words. That usually means the person is trying to be perfect, which no one can be, hence the last affirmation. Remind yourself that making a mistake doesn’t mean being a failure. Everyone makes them, even very successful people. I’ve made some whoppers! But they’re over and I do my best in the future.

It’s up to YOU to feel confident. If you don’t have confidence, your boss’ words won’t give it to you.

Words can make you feel good until the short time after they wear off and you’re back to worrying. Build your confidence by patting yourself on the back for doing a good job. Read your list of what you do right. Use some of the other tools I write about. Expecting someone to make you feel good sets you up for disappointment and failure. You can take baby steps to having a stronger belief in you and your abilities and use affirmations to brush off negative comments.

When someone says something negative about one of my books, I wince and move on from it. I don’t mull it over and worry about the repercussions.

It’s YOUR choice to let someone’s words—which often aren’t meant to hurt you or might be just a reaction which they don’t mean much by—stick in your head like a bad disease. The person might forget about it shortly after while you analyze it and give it more legs than it should have. Self-love is another anti-dote to negatives. The more I love me, the more I protect myself from harmful words. Words only hurt you if you let them so don’t let them! Appreciate the positives you get and give yourself what you don’t get from others.

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