Last week, after I published on my blog for the first time in a while, a colleague reached out at work to tell me they were glad to see me writing again. It was unexpected — I thought the notification in my Slack would be something work-related.
That simple message encouraged me to post again. It’s the reason I write this now. It probably took my colleague 45 seconds to write me a message, and it impacted me enough that I wrote two more blog posts, then this one.
I believe in positive reinforcement. I’m sure this is because I personally love praise. It’s embarrassing to admit that, but I’ve fought it my whole life and at this point, screw it. I’m 45. I just embrace it now that appreciation motivates me. If someone gives me positive reinforcement, that’s a data point. It’s an indicator that I’m doing something right or well, and so I make a mental note “Keep doing this thing, it is good.” And I will feel joy and pleasure in the doing of it.
To be clear, I’m not talking about a trophy for everyone. I think most people, children and adults alike, can see through empty or superficial praise. Praise for praise’s sake, to avoid conflict or reduce awkwardness, is not meaningful and is arguably harmful in the long run. Empty praise is not the same as genuine appreciation, and empty praise does not have the same effect for me as a spontaneous blurt of “hey, I like what you did there.”
So this is just a note to say that encouragement makes a difference. A small note of thanks or appreciation goes a long way. Don’t be afraid to tell someone if they did something you liked. You might make their day. Maybe they’ll even be inspired to keep doing that thing.