Do you know somebody who lacks confidence, who struggles to do those things that “anybody can do?” Maybe they struggle with staying organized, starting projects, remembering names, keeping track of their own calendars, or completing projects on time. I do. I have a lot of experience with people who struggle to get it right in both my personal and my professional lives. Here’s what I’ve found.
People who struggle in their daily lives at work and at home are used to hearing things like this: “Why didn’t you?” “Why can’t you?” “You’re just lazy/stubborn!” “You’re not motivated!” “I know you’re not stupid! Anybody can do this (be on time, meet deadlines, keep up with papers, turn in their homework, find a specific item in a closet)!”
Regaining confidence: More than “Thank you”
So they are not used to hearing praise. I’ve found that when a person who struggles does something right, the standard “thank you” doesn’t cut it. Since their confidence level is so low and they’ve lost their ability to think they can do anything right, they can’t even hear the compliment.
I realized that if I take the time to praise someone who struggles when they have a small triumph, it makes a huge difference. Could be they made it to work on time, turned in the presentation I need to review on time, made that phone call to a supplier immediately, or they’ve finally sent me the date I’ve been waiting on so I can move forward on a project. When I take the time to notice what they’ve done right and take the time to praise them effusively, it makes a difference.
The concrete roadblock
Why praise effusively? Because there’s a massive concrete roadblock in the minds of people who struggle daily. When you praise someone who struggles, you have to overcome all those years of their hearing “you’re wrong,” “you’re not right,” “you’re incompetent” – but mostly – “you’re wrong,” and its subtext “there’s something wrong with you.” The only way to bust through that concrete roadblock is with extravagant, effusive praise.
What if you go crazy about their accomplishment as if they’re taking their very first step? You know how parents go crazy when their kids take their first steps? It’s crazy exciting because it is a major milestone.
Guess what? If you struggle to keep your life together, to keep your life organized, to do the things that most people think are normal, when you do something seemingly “normal” like making a deadline, it is a major milestone. And, the older the person is, the bigger an occasion or an event it is, because any praise has to beat through that wall of “you’re not good enough, there’s something wrong with you.”
Laser focus on what’s going right
When you make the effort to effusively praise someone who struggles and lacks confidence, you bring the focus to what they are doing right. You are saying “I noticed you, I noticed you doing this thing, and I know it’s a big deal and it’s hard for you.” You help them regain the confidence that they can do things right.
And here’s the coolest part. You will find yourself feeling differently about that person, too. Your focus shifts from what they’re doing wrong to what they’re doing right. You begin to appreciate them more.
So, if you know someone who struggles, praise the little victories. Praise them loud and long so they begin to break through that roadblock of “I can’t do anything right” and feel the win for both of you. It may seem like a little thing; it’s really a big thing.