Thu 7 Jan 2010
By Linda Lande
(c) January 7, 2010
I’ll never forget my first parent/teacher conference—as a parent.
My only children, twin daughters, were in kindergarten. I walked into the classroom expecting a friendly chat about my daughters. Instead, I left feeling disarmed and somewhat disemboweled. They couldn’t tie their shoes, they weren’t great with scissors, and…and…and the list went on. I got in my car and cried all the way home.
And then I got angry. I was supposed to have attended a conference, not a Letterman’s “Top 10 Things Wrong With Your Kids” session. Later that night, I wrote a letter to their teacher saying that they and I certainly would work to improve their skills, but that in the next parent/teacher conference I expected (yes, “expected”), along with the list of criticisms, to also hear some compliments—even if they were as simple as “my daughters have nice smiles and they always come to school with clean socks.”
Compliments are effective, useful tools. Years ago, a few months into my first “real” communications job with a large insurance corporation, an important-looking man in a business suit came striding into our area, stopped in the director’s office and asked where I was.
Holy cats! Me? I didn’t even know this man—and he was asking for me by name! Just as I was about to dive under my desk, I heard him tell the director that the article I had written was one of the best he’d ever read about a particular program—and he was delighted with my work and wanted to meet me! Wow!
Mark Twain once said, “I can live two months on a good compliment.” Believe me, I lived a lot longer on that one! And it taught me the value of “constructive compliments.” If we’re to expect and gracefully receive “constructive criticism,” shouldn’t we also expect and gracefully receive “constructive compliments”?
I was talking with one of my daughters on the phone recently. (They’re both college graduates now—tying their shoes and making their way in the world.) She’s considering confronting her boss concerning a few work issues—issues with her boss’s management style. I smiled to myself as my mind’s eye pictured my daughters’ kindergarten teacher.
“Remember,” I said to her, “to also be sure to include a few compliments for your boss. Let her also know what she’s doing right.”
We both laughed a little, remembering kindergarten and the lessons learned: that compliments and Velcro shoes are worth their weight in gold!