Does encouragement work?

Does encouragement work?

Friday, July 22, 2022

Creating possibility, releasing potential - what works for you?

This week my Twitter timeline has been full of graduations and end of terms posts from teachers and parents.  

They've thrown up an interesting contrast:  on the one hand, the person collecting their PhD who's effectively saying "Hah, that showed you, [insert name of teacher at school who said I'd never amount to anything]" and on the other: the parent who's clearly deeply moved by the message of support and encouragement - and gratitude to the young person - from the teacher writing a good bye and good luck letter to (reading between the lines) their somewhat challenging child.

This set me to wondering about the teacher in the first case.  Did they genuinely think that the young person was a waste of space, or was it a strategy to get them to buck up their ideas (in which case it clearly worked)?  Talking to a colleague earlier in the week who's on a consulting assignment with a top-rank business school, it seems that new lecturers were (or perhaps still are) advised to impose their authority on a class by deploying a series of tactics that amounted to a strategy of humilitation. 

And we've seen it before, of course, in reality shows such as "Strictly Come Dancing" (of which I'm a big fan, I have to say) where at least one of the judges is employed to be nasty to the competitors, as a form of entertainment, under the guise of "helpful feedback".

Clearly, for some people, being bullied and humiliated by their teachers (or managers!) is a route to "I'll show you!" and they do respond by digging  in and proving themselves.  But I'd argue that for every person who's an "I'll show you" type, there are probably many more who believe the "You'll never amount to anything" message, and stop trying.  And if that's the case, then there's a lot of potential that's going to waste.

What do you think?

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