Say Something Nice

It can be tough to run a business or organization, teach classes, coach a team or be a mentor. One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to motivate people. If we become frustrated when we are working at helping individuals get the best out of themselves, there is a good chance that our efforts will not only fail, but we might end up doing more harm than good.

I recall an old motivational rule. For every potentially negative comment you might feel compelled to make in helping someone improve at something, find at least two things that you can make, positive comments about. Oh and here is the thing, many times we do not feel we make many, or any, negative comments to the people we are working with. Perhaps that is because we fail to see things from their perspective.

For example, imagine that we are attempting to motivate someone who is learning a foreign language. We hear them say something, in that language, and immediately comment that they mispronounced a word. We might think we are just helping. The person we are directing our comment at might take what we said very hard. It might end up demotivating them rather than motivating them.

To expand on this, imagine if we said, “Wow, great effort! You used excellent vocabulary words. I am impressed.” And then added, “You said all of that almost perfectly; that was really great. The only word that needs a bit of work when it comes to your pronunciation is …” Then you mention the word.

Compare that with saying, “You pronounced that wrong.” Now, consider the following. Which approach would likely motivate you to work harder on what you are doing? Don’t you want to be recognized for what you do right, as well as receiving valuable input on what might need improvement?

This concept can be applied to any area of human endeavor. In the business world, think of teaching someone to become more persuasive in their approach to selling. We want to recognize the efforts of the budding salesperson for all the things they are doing right. We do not simply want to criticize them, about what might need improvement.

Say something nice. You might be surprised at how people perk up and become more motivated to excel at the task at hand when you do.

Image courtesy of [ddpavumba] /

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.

You can reach me with your questions and comments at Like today’s column? Check back frequently.