Following on from my post about the book, How Full is Your Bucket?, I have been giving a lot of thought to the frequency and modes I use for giving feedback and compliments, mostly at work and with the intention of helping to fill the buckets of my colleagues. We have a great system in our team where one staff member can write a thank you message for another on a specially printed thank you card. The envelope, which has the recipient’s name on it as well as the name of the person who wrote the card, can then be dropped into a special box and entered into a monthly prize draw. I can honestly say that every single time I have received one of these thank you cards, the ‘thanker’ has totally made my day. 🙂
Giving and receiving compliments
While I was a classroom teacher, my school introduced the Skills for Growing programme to support the Health and Physical Well being curriculum area, particularly in the area of mental health. One lesson focused around giving and receiving compliments. A starter activity involved the teacher writing a short compliment for each student and then modelling appropriate ways to give and receive it. I wrote a personalised note for each student inside a colourful frame and put it inside their desk during the lunch break. I thought each child would read their note, we’d talk about how to receive a compliment (look at the person who gave it to you, say thank you and smile – no self deprecation!), perhaps glue the note into their topic studies books, and then have a go at writing a compliment for another child in the class using the same model. The reaction I got was startling, to stay the least, and has stuck with me 12 years later.
My students were totally taken aback by the two sentences I wrote about each of them. They proudly compared their notes. Some proclaimed, “this is the nicest thing someone has ever said about me”. (They were 10 years old, and I doubt that was true, but it showed how overwhelmed they were feeling.) They didn’t want to stick their notes into their books; they wanted to bring them home and show them off to their families or put them on their bedroom walls. They also said how much they valued that the note was simply a positive comment about them, and didn’t mention something they could do better at or try harder with in future. This simple gesture made their buckets were truly overflow that day.
Of all the reactions I received from my class on that day 12 years ago, I was most surprised to discover that the children didn’t think they had done anything to deserve that comment from me at that particular point in time. That is, they were so conditioned to only receiving written comments or feedback after an event or activity had finished. That was a timely lesson for me to learn; I thought I had been providing encouraging feedback far more than I actually was in reality.
In How Full is Your Bucket?, the authors urge readers to give unexpectedly. They state that although expected ‘gifts’ do fill buckets, the element of surprise means that receiving recognition unexpectedly fills our buckets just a little bit more. Expected rewards are just that: expected, and the good feelings they create are limited by that expectation. If someone expects recognition for something and doesn’t receive it, they will likely be disappointed. In other words, look for opportunities to genuinely compliment, thank, or offer sincere praise for even the smallest things every day. Don’t just store it all up for one major event!
Have you filled someone’s bucket today? How did they react? How would you react if someone were to unexpectedly fill your bucket today?