As they walked out to the parking lot, Ellen tried to console him. "Maybe they were confused and didn't want to admit it," she said. "It took, what, three hours till I finally got it, didn't it?"
Bob was unconvinced. "I don't know, they all just kinda sat there. Like they'd heard the idea before, and they were so bored they just wanted to move on."
Ellen persisted. "Look, I have to get going. Let's meet for coffee tomorrow morning, 7:30."
"OK, but if I'm not there, don't call the paramedics. I'll probably be sleeping off a bender. Just kidding."
Although he's still able to make lame jokes, Bob is feeling pretty low about how his presentation was received. He wanted a more obvious expression of approval, and he was disappointed.
When you depend on praise from others to feel good about yourself, you're giving other people a lot of power. Here are two other forms of this pattern:When you depend
on praise from others
to feel good about yourself,
you're giving other people
a lot of power
- Approving multitudes
- Dependence on universal acclamation or honor can be even more dangerous, because it can be difficult to achieve. Bob might be caught in this trap.
- Acquired treats
- Acquired treats are goods or services that anyone with enough money can buy. For some, the intensity of the reward is in inverse proportion to the number of people who can acquire the treat (legally or otherwise).
Instead of praise, approval, acclamation, or treats, rely on yourself. You'll experience a level of happiness that's otherwise unavailable. And with it comes a bonus: you can give yourself a lift whenever you want it.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you build your power to appreciate yourself:
- Begin within
- When you want to give yourself a lift, focus first on your breathing — a few slow breaths at least. Find your center.
- There's no one else like you
- We're all unique. People are so complicated that there are too few of us to require repetition. There are some situations that we alone are able to handle best. The needed combination of skills, knowledge, abilities, and interest resides in no one else.
- We don't appreciate each other
- Think of a colleague at work. Ask yourself, "How often have I thought about his or her uniqueness?" If you're like most of us, not often. And other people think about your uniqueness about as rarely as you think of theirs. In part, this is why so many of us feel unappreciated.
- You're the world's expert on you
- No one knows as much about you as you do. When you need a lift, rely on the world's expert on you.
The article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More
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More articles on Emotions at Work:
- The Fallacy of the False Cause
- Although we sometimes make decisions with incomplete information, we do the best we can, given what
we know. Sometimes, we make wrong decisions not because we have incomplete information, but because
we make mistakes in how we reason about the information we do have.
- Are You Taking on the Full Load?
- Taking on the full load is what we do when we feel fully responsible for either the success or the failure
of some organizational activity. Instead of asking for help, we take extreme measures to execute responsibilities
that might not even be ours.
- Why Dogs Wag Their Tails
- If you've ever known a particular dog at all well, you've probably been amazed at how easy it is to
guess a dog's mood, even though dogs can't speak. Perhaps what's more amazing is that it's so difficult
to guess a person's mood, even though humans can speak.
- The Uses of Empathy
- Even though empathy skills are somewhat undervalued in the workplace context, we do use them, for good
and for ill. What is empathy? How is it relevant at work?
- How to Avoid a Layoff: Your Relationships
- In troubled economic times, layoffs loom almost everywhere. Here are some tips for reconfiguring your
relationships with others at work and at home to reduce the chances that you will be laid off.
See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 11: The Rhyme-as-Reason Effect
- When we speak or write, the phrases we use have both form and meaning. Although we usually think of form and meaning as distinct, we tend to assess as more meaningful and valid those phrases that are more beautifully formed. The rhyme-as-reason effect causes us to confuse the validity of a phrase with its aesthetics. Available here and by RSS on December 11.
- And on December 18: The Trap of Beautiful Language
- As we assess the validity of others' statements, we risk making a characteristically human error — we confuse the beauty of their language with the reliability of its meaning. We're easily thrown off by alliteration, anaphora, epistrophe, and chiasmus. Available here and by RSS on December 18.
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- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, )
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, )
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.