Finding the Gems in Everyone: The Lost Process
I can see that my daughter was put into our family to hold everyone together. She is the glue. She has started this game where she tells everyone in the family that she loves them and then tells them to say it back to her. And then she gets us to say to it each other. And she does this all day long. It’s amazing how she can already say exactly what she needs and get her point across despite her limited language skills. I mean, who would have thought that a two year old would be the one that makes all the family love each other more? And she does it in such a fun way that we’re all laughing too. It’s an amazing gift.
I received this message recently from a mother working to see the best in her children. Unfortunately she is the exception and not the rule. It is almost universal that parents do the opposite, which in my opinion is the reason the world is in such a mess. Most parents and supervisors believe that in order for someone to improve that you need to constantly be telling them where their shortcomings are and then threatening them with consequences if they don’t do what is being asked. This is how the world acts. This is our pattern of behavior.
There is only one problem with the shortcomings approach. It doesn’t work. Every piece of research shows its ineffectiveness, but it persists. The process that works and is reinforced consistently by science is to constantly be in search for the multitude of very positive qualities that exist in others, to acknowledge them, and then to give helpful guidance along the path. It is illustrated by the tennis lesson I had the other day. My tennis instructor is Indian Malaysian and I chose him because he is so positive when he works with people. For the longest time we had problems getting together because of my injuries, illnesses, or the rain, but the other day he started working on my backhand. First of all he just let me do what I was currently doing so he could see where to change what I was doing. He made some nice comments and then stopped my played and had me show him my grip. He made a correction in my grip, then started giving my drills to practice it. When I hit a good shot, he just told me how great it was and repeated saying it whenever I used the grip correctly. My backhand improved dramatically in the space of about 5 minutes. Then he made another suggestion in a very kind voice and normal tone and when I started using that suggestion, my stroke improved even more. He just kept praising the progress and the shots. It was so exciting to get the feedback, both positive and instructive without ever once giving me a critical tone or threatening me with consequences. His method worked.
When you have a critical tone and threaten your children or the people you are teaching or supervising, it is because you are lazy. It is plain and simple. Parents or supervisors who do not take the time to see the multitude of gifts in their children or workers, then meditate on how to bring them out more in a positive manner are just taking the easy way out. It doesn’t work. No one changes through criticism and threatening. They just get more protective and afraid.
The method that works is being able to see the gems that already are being shown, to acknowledge them with enthusiasm constantly, then to believe in the unseen gems, acknowledge them also and then to spend time meditating and planning how to bring them out. The natural tendency for most human beings is to forget their positive qualities. They forget the qualities because the negative emotions are always in their face making them think about the next change. I knew that my backhand needed a lot of work. No one had to tell me that it sucked and then tell me how many games I would lose because of it. I am not that stupid, but that is exactly the method that the whole world uses. My tennis teacher saw what I was doing well already, kept acknowledging my good points repeatedly, then thought about what to do to help me take the next step without being critical in the least way. In a matter of fact manner he helped me by showing me new ways of doing things, gave me lots of practice to try out the new ways and then kept saying positive things over and over.
The mistake that we seem to make with each other is that we dwell on the negative behaviors rather than dwelling and planning for the gems to come out. It is as if there is diamond buried in a heap of other rubble so we all criticize the rubble in us instead of believing in the diamond and then meditating on how to find it and bring out its shine. Criticizing the rubble just makes us see more and more rubble until we believe that that is who we are, rubble. Most people believe that they are rubble because that is how they are seen. They are not told that their true reality is the diamond.
The lazy part of supervision or teaching is the threat. The part that takes self-discipline and self control is the meditation, but it first rests on the principle of seeing and believing in the gems. When a supervisor uses threats to get a change, it is because they do not believe in the gems. The threat is for their sake and not for the sake of the worker or learner. They see what they are going to get out of the situation and then do the least possible to get to it. This is the lazy part. When you see the gold in another person, it makes you automatically wonder how to bring it out.
In the opening paragraph the mother saw the daughter as glue, which is the capacity to unify people. When she saw this ability, it made her marvel in it. Most of the world, unfortunately, would never see their children as glue or any other positive quality because they only think about themselves and making their life easier so they ignore others’ gifts. Now that the mother has seen the gift she can meditate on the next step which is how to bring out the glue even more.
In short, see the gems, not the rubble, and meditate for a long time on how to bring out the gems, not on threatening the rubble for your own sake.
thanks for the comment Honey
What a great post, Richard! I was just thinking about something similar today. I was making lunch and she said she was going to go clean up her toy kitchen, which she has said she would before but she has never actually done. She proudly came down and told me that she cleaned it up and asked me to come see it, so I did. With a beaming face she showed me that it was all cleared up and I told her she did such a good job and was very responsible. On further inspection it wasn’t as thorough a job as I would have done, but it was pretty good for a three year old. I could have told her what she could have done better, but I decided to let it go, I was happy that she had even attempted – she DID surprisingly sort out the toy dishes from the toy food. There is plenty of time for teaching her how to do it better when we are doing it together, today was a celebration that she did it by herself!
There is such true wisdom in this. We will rise when we are encouraged and motivated. Putting someone down is exactly that! Of course, we must also work to see the positive in ourselves as well as others. My mother used to advise her body conscious daughters to “Accent the positive.” Whether one is talking about dressing the body or the spirit, this is important. Let’s all make a New Year’s resolution to be kinder to ourselves and others!