#TBT: Saying Aloud the Good Things We Think About Others

This week's post is another #TBT to a Nathan Eklund post from February 2012 about how we as colleagues treat each other.  At this time of the year, as some staff look ahead to spring break, but it still seems far away, it is time to remember that Great Places to Work are supportive, collegial workplaces.


I think there seems to be an emerging theme in many of my posts:  doing the right thing is seldom the most natural or easiest route. There’s no shortage of literature, art, and philosophy through the ages that would lend credence to this notion. That said, I suppose we can never be reminded enough to fight against the natural flow of life around us and strive to be the better versions of ourselves – a product almost always stemming from our ability to navigate our behavior in a counter-cultural manner.

In a culture celebrating the crass, we move toward the thoughtful. The rest move toward judgmental, we rush to being judicious.

Today’s notion of countering the prevailing norms comes from a New Year’s resolution I made nearly four years ago and one that I’m still trying to maintain. (This has to be some sort of record for longevity of a New Year’s resolution, doesn’t it?) I found myself incredibly apt (gifted even?) at passing judgment on others or speaking of ill of other people. Skewing toward the negative is just very, very easy. I did not always find myself equally adept at speaking well of others. So I made up my mind that as much as possible I was going to speak aloud the good things I thought of others.

Here’s a scenario to exemplify this:

Everyday I go to the staff lounge to fill up my water bottle at the cooler. Everyday I pass you and think, “Man! She is kind of awesome at her job. She’s just really good at what she does.” And then I go fill up my water bottle, leaving those reflections inside.

Unfortunately, neither of us really benefited from that moment. Perhaps I felt compelled to do my own work better or to be a better person, but maybe not. If this person had really screwed up or did something wrong, I’m SURE I would have found time to speak aloud about THAT to her or someone else. Probably someone else.

So to re-play that scenario:

I walk by your office everyday, so on and so on…

And then I pop in and simply say, “Hey. I walk by you everyday to fill up my water bottle and I just want you to know you’re kind of awesome at your job and I’m glad you’re here.”

Okay. That took about three seconds. But a lot happened in those three seconds. Observe:

1  She got complimented. Everyone likes being complimented. Everyone.

2  She could have been having a crappy day. I probably just turned it around.

3  At the end of the day, when I drive home and look in the rearview mirror, I can think to myself, “Self, I’d like to work with you.”

Seriously. I’m Swedish Lutheran. We’re not particularly prone to self-approval. But when I say these things aloud to others, I become the kind of person I would want to be around. And what’s wrong with that? Why wouldn’t I want to strive toward that?! What’s the other option? “Self. You’re not someone I’d like to be around. Keep it up!”

Now I do have to warn you: if you take on this habit and you consistently do these things, you might be sort of sappy at times. Ask my neighborhood friends who have had their fair share of “I love you guys!” moments from me. So what? I can live with that. In the game of reputations, I don’t mind being the on the side of overly gracious than the other alternatives.

Take some time to analyze the amount of time, energy, and conversation you spend speaking ill about others and that which you spend on buoying up others around you. How often are speaking well of others directly to them? Quite simply, would you want to work with you?

And lastly, dear readers and colleagues: I love you guys!