Stats say that for every one negative comment we hear, we need to hear 8 positive comments to outweigh it; and I don’t know about you, but I feel like I say a lot of negative things.
“You’re so slow, hurry up!”
“Just sit down and be quiet already.”
“One more time and you’ll spend the rest of the day in your room!”
“You’re so frustrating.”
In the book Inside the Magic Kingdom, the author talks about the ways in which Disney employees are recognized for their hard work. Did you know that if you write a letter to say thank-you to a specific employee they will get it, (even if you only know it was ‘that guy’ with Snow White on Main Street at 3pm on Friday). That takes effort when you consider the number of employees working for Disney, but it’s effort they put in because they know that as important at words are, what people remember is how you make them feel. They know that if everyone at Disney ‘walks the talk’ then executives need to treat employees the way they want employees to treat guests.
There are two types of income that everyone is paid regardless of where they work: economic income and psychological income. We need both. Economic income enables you to keep a roof over your head; psychological income enables you to keep your head up. Good employers know that both have equal importance.
This is something that has hit home for me this past week in a bit of a situation with our oldest daughter. Something started to change in her near the end of the school year last year. She didn’t want to be around us anymore, she didn’t want to do anything I asked her to do, she constantly stood at odds with me and she was miserable. I thought it was just some mother/daughter thing we’d have to work through, but in September she took it to school.
It’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde thing. There are a lot of days where she is wonderful and then all of a sudden she becomes another person; no warning, no common denominator.
I talked with her teacher about it a bit and she asked what we were doing at home to combat the attitude. At home it comes across as defiance which quickly turns to self-depricating talk. So at home we take the time to remind her often and firmly that she is not dumb, the work before her takes effort and focus. That she isn’t getting her work done because she is choosing not to focus, not that she doesn’t know how. And we remind her of times she has done the work and we encourage her. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes she tells us just as often and just as firmly that we don’t know what we’re talking about, but either way she has to stay with her work until it’s done. We don’t let her off the homework hook. Her teacher was concerned we were focusing too much on the emotions and that we would be manipulated, that she just needs to learn to do her work.
We decided our first course of action against this problem would be a ‘communication book’. Each day her teacher writes in it. If there was an incident she describes it and if was a good day she lets us know as well. We’re only a week in but so far Isabella has had all good days. And she asks, did I have a good day? I think I did. And she is delighted to know that is what the book says.
Life gets crazy and we forget to catch people being good. The not good things are always louder and deeper, we always pay attention to them. I think something is depleting Isabella’s psychological bank account and we’re not making regular enough deposits to keep her from being overdrawn. I still don’t know what the source is, what caused her to get so low on funds, but for now it’s a good plan of action to make sure we are making a conscious effort to give psychological credit.
Rewards and recognition at home are a great chance to be creative. Whether it’s chore charts or family fun nights or special dates with Daddy. It’s a chance to not only say; “I believe in you.”, but to show it. And we all know people don’t remember what we tell them, they remember how we make them feel.
At DisneyWorld there is a wall where letters and pictures from people expressing their thanks are posted for everyone to see. Recognition is public and personal there. I think we need some more of that here, I think it’s off to one of my favourite places to find some creative ways to build up the psychological bank accounts at Chez Franks.