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September 28, 1990

Making Evaluation

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Have you ever been made to feel worthless by another person? Perhaps a boss, a competitor, a parent, or a spouse told you that you had nothing to offer. Or perhaps you’ve been publicly humiliated. If so, then you know how important it is to be valued by another human being. Encouragement really is oxygen to the soul!

As a parent, we desire to see our children feel valued and filled with confidence about who they are. Unfortunately, not everyone they come in contact with has the same plan. I remember one day when my son went out to join some older neighborhood kids who were playing outside. As I watched through the window, he approached them and I could tell he was asking these boys, who were older than him, if he could play. In his innocence he has yet to realize that older boys don’t value younger kids during neighborhood playtime. The boys harshly told him that he couldn’t play with them and then ran off as fast as they could so that he couldn’t catch them.

You could see the disappointment in him through his physical posture. His shoulders slumped, his head hung low, he dragged his feet as he walked back to our yard and sat down. He sat there staring at the street, elbows on his knees, his cheeks buried in his hands, and tears rolling down his face. It was pitiful. He felt no value. Luckily good ole dad was there to show him that he is the most valued kid in the neighborhood!

Mary Kay Ash, the founder of her own beauty products line, understood the importance of making people understand their value. She once said, “Everyone has an invisible sign saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when dealing with people of all ages.” Do you make others feel valued?

1. Have you ever felt unvalued, or rejected, by another person?

2. How does being unvalued change your view of the other person?

3. How does being unvalued change how you interact with that person?

4. How does being unvalued affect your performance? Your mood?

Go back with me to the same neighborhood, and the same son, that we talked about earlier. But this time let’s hear a different kind of story. Before he bought a gas scooter my son loved to ride his bike. For Christmas one year, Santa brought him a really sharp bike with dual-hand brakes, flame stickers, and knobby dirt tires. He rode it so much that he wore the training wheels off of their rims. He wanted desperately to ride the bike, but the training wheels were toast. I challenged him to learn to ride without them. Even though it was a little premature for his age and skill level, I knew he could do it.

So we began the process one Saturday afternoon. After an hour of letting go and reattaching myself to him, he began to catch on to the balance needed to ride the bike. I remember his first successful 20-yard solo ride. He was so proud and wanted to try again. I noticed a few neighbors milling around their yards that afternoon. I whispered to my son to show them his newly found skill of riding solo. He yelled to them all, “Hey, watch this! I can ride by myself without my training wheels.” I gave him a shove and he took off for about a 50-yard run.

The neighbors applauded and encouraged him. “Way to go!” “That’s great!” You sure are a fast learner!” His face was beaming. I added my approval. He felt confident. He felt pride. You could see it in the way he walked, and in the tone of his voice. He was feeling valuable. Isn’t it amazing how a few words or actions of encouragement can change a person’s perspective?

The most amazing thing is that we could be talking about middle-aged men and women in their corporate neighborhood at the same time. Instead of playing games and riding bikes it is giving presentations, getting the business, and the sort. But the core idea doesn’t change one shred. We all have an invisible sign that says make me feel valued and important.

If you were to write down all the possible ways to motivate people to do better work, friendly praise would have to come near the head of your list.—Hannah Whitall Smith

1. Can you think of a time when a person offered you some timely encouragement that really affected your life?

2. How does feeling valued affect our view of ourselves?

3. How does feeling valued affect our performance?

4. How do we view those who are encouraging to us?

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