It's easy to be critical, isn't it?
When I read, for example, it's easy to rag (as I have here in the past, admittedly) on a book's faults. It's gotten even easier to do so as my own writing skill has improved. Not only can I spot technical errors, a task at which I've always been more or less competent, but my efforts, studies, and practices have led me to being able to put a finger, and sometimes even a name, to what it is that bugs me about plotting and characterization flaws.
And when a book's good? Yeah, it's pretty good.
Supervising is the same situation. I've spent years honing my calibrated eyeballs to improve my ability to weigh and measure my employees' performance. It's a vital skill of management, not only for process improvement but also for keeping my own supervisors impressed. When you can critique performance with specificity, especially without causing undue hurt feelings on the performer's part, you can improve for next time.
And when they didn't do anything wrong? Yeah, they did pretty good.
The same goes, without too much exemplifying, for the raising of children, doesn't it? It's easier, it seems, to say no, don't, than it is to say yes, good job.
This concept is discussed in several management and teamwork improvement regimens out there currently, usually somewhere close to the title "catch them doing something right." It wouldn't be there if we all did it normally.
This occurred to me as I was reading a guest blogger on IndieReader.com today. The post was, after some explanatory paragraphs, a list of the five things Indie authors do very well. Being an Indie author myself, I felt an inner warmth glowing as I read over the list. The author, Dr. Baverstock, had some solid points, granted. Indie authors who get stuff out onto Amazon and other sales sites really do something positive when we actually finish something, and when we take responsibility and ownership of it, and those somethings aren't very commonly done. The thing is, nobody really ever points that out. There are a lot of blustery Indie authors, and a lot of Indie readers who swear by those authors, but there are just as many people who seem to take personal offense that we Indies would dare go out on a limb and publish something ourselves.
With all the negativity, it's really, really nice to be reminded of the positive of what we're doing.
That carries out into other aspects of our lives, too, doesn't it? When was the last time you criticized something your spouse or children did? When was the last time you caught them doing something right and told them about it? What about your subordinates at work? Your co-workers?
Yes, there will always be a need for delivering effective critique as a means of improving performance. But there's also always a need--probably an even greater need, for that matter--for delivering effective commendation.