'Oh! I've known you for ages. I don't think it's my job to tell you when you've done something well ... just when you need to improve'
So ended a conversation with someone I'd known for years ... and it hurt ... and it set me thinking!
I see many people, especially young people/young adults with a desperate need to be affirmed, noticed, respected (in the true sense) and encouraged. They have many 'friends' whom they have known for a long time, but somehow the familiarity has also put scales on the eyes of friends, so that they no longer encourage or feed positives into their life ... only a destructive neutrality.
And yet I am just as guilty as my friend for either prejudging (appearance, comments from other people etc) or just looking for things I can improve in them, whilst missing the core values and reasons why they are my friend in the first place. What should be a relationship becomes a monologue: I forget their needs and aim to fulfil my wants.
I remember friends at school who were devastated when they had tried their hardest and yet weren't quite good enough because the standard of their work didn't compare to the standard of work submitted by other members of the class. Rather than being helped and encouraged, they were targetted by teachers and fellow pupils; they were the butt end of jokes; they were labelled 'thick', 'stupid', 'dunces' (and worse) ... and I was right there with the crowd taunting them!!
What effect did this have on the individuals concerned?
They responded in a number of ways. They became:
Discouraged ... they perceived themselves as not good enough.
Demotivated ... their enthusiasm and interest declined and not surprisingly, their marks got worse
Disillusioned ... long-term, some of my friends gave up in that subject
Some became Disenfranchised from the education system ... they continually got into trouble with teachers, pupils and in some cases the law, and very sadly, some lost hope.
But thankfully, some became very successful people, running their own business and enjoying life.
So what happened to buck the trend?
In most cases there was either an individual who took interest in them, coached and encouraged them, hung in there and made a difference. In other cases the inner drive of these people to prove to themselves that they had value and could succeed was so strong that they drove themselves to achieve what they had been told could never happen.
I hear sad stories about people like Robbie Williams and Mick Hucknall, two high profile, talented personalities in the music world who were told by teachers at school, 'You will never amount to anything.' Ouch! Wouldn't it have been so much better if their talents had been spotted, encouraged and nurtured so that they could reach and enjoy their success without so many hangups and low self image.
As we look to cultivate relationships with others we should 'earn the right' to their friendship by building trust and demonstrating that we are worth having as a friend. And once we have built these friendships and relationships, it is the responsibility of each of us to accentuate the positive rather than highlight the negative or, equally as destructive, make no comment at all.
I believe that by applying these principles to our relationships, in all areas of life, we will benefit, our friends will benefit and those around us will benefit.