Additional Information on Chapter 2, page 19
The opposite of encouragement and expressions of gratitude is criticism. Criticism destroys. A wise person can benefit from helpful criticism, but few are that wise, and most criticism is decidedly NOT helpful and is instead designed to hurt. I have called criticism “the cheapest form of human emission.” It requires neither brain, not conscious effort to criticize. If you are unfortunate enough to marry someone who is habitually critical, it will not only eventually destroy the marriage, it will destroy you as well.
The power of encouragement and gratitude is so great that we begin with a discussion of criticism so we can teach you how to eradicate the habit and replace a critical attitude with one of encouragement and gratitude.
Zig Zigler Example of the Woman Who Hated Her Job
I paraphrase an actual even, (described by motivational speaker Zig Ziglar in one of his speeches), that illustrates the power of positive thinking.
Zig was told by his secretary that there was a woman who felt that if she could speak with him it would help her solve a daunting problem.
Zig responded that he’d be happy to talk with her and arranged to meet an hour before the meeting that evening.
After a brief introduction, the woman lit in with a scathing account of everything that was wrong with her job. She was wondering if Zig might help her.
After listening for awhile, Zig told her, well, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about your job much longer because I suspect the company is about to fire you.
“Why’s that?” She cried.
Zig responded that he didn’t think that any company could withstand that amount of concentrated poison in one place for long and survive.
She responds “What Can I do?”
Zig said, “Get out a note pad and write down what you like about the company”
The woman responded, “That’s easy, I don’t like anything about the company!”
Well let me help you out, said Zig: “Do they pay you to work there or do you just work out of the goodness of your heart?”
“Of course they pay me!”
“Don’t you like getting paid?”
“Of course I like getting paid”
Zig said, “There’s your number 1, they pay you for working.”
Zig kept pressing her in this manner and eventually they came up with 18 things she liked about the company, such as, she was paid more than average for her work, an excellent health care plan, six weeks a year vacation time, outstanding retirement program, and others.
Now, said Zig, Every morning I want you to stand in front of the mirror, square your shoulders, look yourself in the eyes and say with enthusiasm “I love my job because . . . .”. Do this 18 times, once for each of the 18 items. The whole process will take less than 3 minutes. But you must do it daily for the next 60 days.
Two or three months later Zig was back in the same city. Before the meeting the woman approached him smiling so wide that according to Zig “she could have swallowed a banana sideways.”
“How ya doing?” asked Zig.
“I’m doing wonderfully well,” says the woman. “You cannot believe how much those people down there have changed!”
The story illustrates the power of criticism as compared to the power of gratitude. While expressing criticism, the lady had turned into a bitter old woman on the verge of getting fired. When she focused on the positive she turned into someone who could actually enjoy life again.
A Plan To Replace Criticism With Appreciation
1) Recognize the validity of the story just told. Accept that if you habitually criticize, you will eventually destroy your marriage and the person you are married to. Recognize that if you want a successful marriage, you must change.
2) Determine that you will change. Make a choice and begin the process. What follows is one effective method of making the switch.
Let’s say that you currently make 20 critical statements per day. You have already become aware of the destructive power of criticism and the need to change. You first ask, what is the opposite of criticism? Eventually you decide that expressions of appreciation and gratitude fit the bill. If you wish for a successful marriage (or life in general for that matter) you will need to do more than eliminate criticism. You will need to exchange critical expressions for expressions of gratitude.
You start by acquiring a small note pad that you will keep with you at all times for the next couple of months. Then you will resolve that when you feel a criticism coming on you will block it and express appreciation and gratitude instead. Then write down very briefly what you were going to say and then what you actually said. For the first month it is important to have an accountability person that you meet with each evening and discuss how your self improvement process is going.
On day #1, realistically, you may catch 3 of the 20 criticisms. Further for 2 of the 3 times you caught yourself, you couldn’t think of anything positive to say. So you only wrote down three items on your list
The next day you may catch 4 of them and be able to come up with an expressions of gratitude 2 of the 4 times. Meeting with the accountability person will help you keep focused on the task.
The number of criticisms you catch and the number of appreciations you are able to express continue to expand. By the end of the first month you are now catching most of your criticisms and for those you do catch, you’re able to come up with an expression of appreciation most of the time. Your friends will have noticed a dramatic difference in you.
By the end of a year you will have become a habitual good finder instead of the former and lethal fault finder. You are now ready (on that issue anyway) for excellent relationships and a growing circle of friends who like the good things you say about them.
“What if there’s nothing good to say?” I hear you cry. Let’s be realistic. A contrived or false expression of appreciation may not do the trick. But it is important to begin the process of eradicating criticism and encouraging expression of appreciation. Even if early attempts ring hollow, continue the process until genuine appreciation begins to emerge.
The Grocery Clerk Having A Bad Day
Let’s take an example of a grocery clerk who has just experienced a disastrous day. He made mistakes at the check out that were pointed out sharply by the customers. The manager got into the act to gently suggest that he improve his act, and in general he is feeling mean and miserable.
Let’s say a disgustingly optimistic person gives him a cheery greeting and booms out “How ya doing?”
Being a touch more creative and literary than the average person he says “Compared to whom?”
The optimistic customer says: “Compared to someone who doesn’t have a job; compared to someone who doesn’t have a nice clean, well-lit, air-conditioned (or heated) building to work in; compared to someone who has AIDS; compared to someone who was born in a 3rd world country in grinding poverty, compared to someone who is paralyzed; compared to someone who lives in a war torn country and has to fear for his life every day.”
The checker says, “thank you for reminding me. I am doing wonderfully well!”
Abraham Lincoln said it right: “Most of us are just about as happy as we make up our minds to be.”
The rather simple little process described above (to shift a critical attitude to one of gratitude) is one that is required for your relational success. Even if early on you have to force it a bit and it feels fake, continue the process. Eventually it will integrate at an emotional level and heartfelt expressions of gratitude and appreciation will become the norm.
Words of Affirmation, A Love Language
Gary Chapman identifies one of his five love languages as “Words of Affirmation.” If this is one of the love languages of your spouse or romantic partner the concept of expression of gratitude takes on a new meaning. Words of affirmation may take many forms, but a huge subset in this category is expression of gratitude and words of appreciation. If words of affirmation is one of your partner’s love languages, then absence of criticism alone doesn’t even begin to do the trick. The expressions of gratitude, appreciation, and simple affirming statements keeps your partners love tank full and nurtures a wonderful relationship. Without such expressions, the love tank empties and your partner will wither and die.