A few kind words go a very long way

So often we only hear negatives in life.  People in customer service only hear complaints.  In the office you likely only really ever receive commentary when you forget to put the cover sheet on your TPS report.  In Emergency Services, all to often you only hear about pain and suffering and death, anger and sorrow, but seldom ever praise.  In software, you hear how your code is wrong, not about the parts that are right.  As a mechanic, you hear about how you didn’t do something the way the other person would prefer, you seldom ever hear how those newly rebuilt brake calipers and new pads just saved someone from a horrific accident.

Just the other day, I received a rather simple email from a colleague in response to a release announcement I had sent to a distribution list that I maintain for internal and external customers:

Your emails are a joy to read.
Clear, informative and well written.

I guess you get that feedback pretty often, but in case you don’t
(because I guess we tend to not praise that often), here it goes.

I always think it, but I think I had never said it.

Pretty simple praise about something completely ordinary and part of my day to day work.  But in context they are so much more.  First, the colleague who sent me that note is not a native English speaker.  For her to state that my emails are clear, informative and well written is pretty high praise.  It means I am doing a good job of reaching my audience, many of whom are NOT native English speakers.

Sadly, like so many others in this world I actually do not get that kind of feedback, ever.  Every once in a blue moon I hear something positive, but most of my interactions are of the typical sort:

“Why hasn’t X been completed yet? What’s the holdup?”

“This doesn’t work. Fix it!”

And so on.  This is made even worse in my case by the fact that I work alone, from my home office, with limited physical interaction from anyone at all.  Most of my interactions with colleagues are via e-mail, IRC or video conference from time to time.  Once or twice a year I get to see some of them at a company event of some sort, but most of my travel is to customer sites so I seldom see my work friends.

The point is that when I read her email, I experienced a few moments of true happiness.  To get something so simple, yet so unexpected was pure joy.  Her email brightened my day (well, my week actually) and had me smiling and actually made me feel a LOT better about some other things I’ve been dealing with at work lately.  We often forget these simple niceties, not realizing just how much of an impact they can have on other people.

So I’d like to challenge anyone who reads this to do the same.  Send a note of thanks to someone random.  Tell them briefly why something they did was GOOD, not bad.  Tell them that you appreciate the good things they’ve done.  Spread just a bit of positivity around and make life just a little better for someone else.  Just like buying a cup of coffee or a drive through meal, paying it forward can be as simple as saying “Thank You” and meaning it.

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