Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Fear of Telling the Good They're Good?

A mentality I've never understood is the one that actually feels fear towards the prospect of telling someone that they're good. Even in an irrational circumstance I can imagine being afraid of morally condemning someone for fear of hostility, but what is it that's just so darned scary about giving someone a compliment, like letting them know what a good job they're doing?

To use myself as an example, someone once put money in a card and gave it to me as a reward for the work that I did, but when I approached them to offer my thanks they had a facial expression indicating fear about the subject. In an even stranger incident -- really strange -- someone once mailed me a card that contained lavish praise, probably in recognition of my intelligence, and the absurd thing is that I happened to be living with the person at the time, which means they took the effort to write on a card, put it in an envelope with a stamp, and actually drive to mailbox so that it could be mailed back to us. If I remember correctly, they even omitted a return address to ensure I wouldn't recognize it when they handed me the envelope (since they got the mail). Not only was it ridiculous, the person also refused to acknowledge its contents to me in person.

Again, just what's so frightening about justly complimenting or praising someone? I can't even project this mentality, as when I see virtue I acknowledge it explicitly without hesitation or emotional resistance. It not only feels right, but seems natural to me. I dole out just praise where deserved since I know it's wrong to withhold it, and how bittering it can be to be in a situation where your good nature seems to be unappreciated or not even seen.

To offer such recognition is important, as it's part of the process of pursuing and keeping values. If a worker goes unrecognized for his exemplary efforts, then what will motivate him to sustain his momentum? What will keep him attached to his job and prevent him seeking career satisfaction elsewhere? And in the personal realm, what will keep friends together?

To desire such recognition is not irrational. For the most part, it doesn't even involve the desire for reward, like money, promotion, or gifts. People like me just want to know that our virtues are being seen and that they are appreciated, otherwise it's easy to feel as if you're being taken for granted or that the surrounding people aren't even aware of the virtue. It's difficult to put forth all that effort in being who you are when you seem to be treated equally to those inferior, or to even witness others be rewarded, such as with more working hours, when you provide more value and haven't gotten what you deserve. It's upsetting and even angering, and the end result of such an experience is a sense of detachment from the organization or persons being unjust, which will make them the losers in the end when you feel free to move onto other endeavors in life without them.

And offering recognition cannot be satisfied by overused sayings like "Good job," or "'Preciate it." They're said so often that they seem reflexive, and their overuse makes them ring hollow. Different phrases, perhaps one or two full sentences (gasp!), are needed to show that a person is seen and appreciated. For instance, saying "Thank you for doing that. I really appreciate it," may seem insignificant, but its wording is so out of common convention that it's more likely to garner the person's attention and show that he's being acknowledged. It's not that difficult to figure out different variations.

Human relationships cannot be taken for granted. Without the right means to sustaining them they're inherently unstable and easily destructible. An employee taken for granted might without second thought accept a better position at another place even if they hold no resentment against their current employers, and a friend might quickly take to moving to another state if their friends value them too quietly. A person might value their employer or their friends, but unless they know they're valued back, what keeps them?

On the flip-side of the coin, why do some people feel unbearable shyness to praise? I've known some people to get extremely nervous when given compliments, and they might even go so far as to distance themselves from me when that happens. When I'm given praise and assess that it is just, I feel spiritually refueled and have my contentment boosted.

Usually in thinking about how other people respond to certain things I am able to project their mentality to some degree since I can compare them to other parts of my life, especially my time before becoming an Objectivist, but this time I positively cannot. It's utterly confusing.

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