Thoughts by Richard Bleil
She said that I always see the good. My friend works very hard, not only for work, but for her family, friends, church…pretty much everybody. We often rely on each other to hold ourselves accountable when we have a lot that we want to get done, and she doesn’t always get all of the way through her list (well, who among us does?). But what I’ve noticed about her is that she always completes what needs to be done, and more. Even if she doesn’t complete her list, what she does finish is incredible. But, failing to finish it all also makes her feel bad, as if she hasn’t accomplished anything at all.
When this happens, I make it a point to talk about what she has done, and to tell her how proud I am of how much she had accomplished. And it’s not just being nice; she works hard to be successful, and invariably completes what has to be done, even if it’s not all that she wanted to finish. It’s actually quite inspiring.
The point she made was to explain how, whenever I speak with her, I focus on her accomplishments, as opposed to her failures. She went on to discuss another friend who does the exact opposite. That person will always point out what was not accomplished, and would ask that thoughtless question, “well why didn’t you…?” while completely ignoring everything that she did do. She asked how it is that I do this.
To be completely fair and honest, I’m not sure. Perhaps part of it is a lack of unfamiliarity. We have a habit, when around those that we see frequently, to forget just exactly how much they do. We ignore the wife or mother who constantly is expected to cook dinner and clean up, for example. When I was married, this is why I always tried to thank my wife when she cooked and insisted on at least helping to clean if not doing it entirely myself. I know I failed to some extent. I often would forget to compliment how clean the house was, for example, but I also helped fold the laundry. So, I wasn’t perfect, but I made an effort.
So how does one choose to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative? Personally, I think it’s a choice. Sometimes, it is necessary to focus on what was not completed. With my friend, for example, if I know there were things that she needed to complete for the next day but failed to do so, I would ask her what her plan was for what was left. She doesn’t need my approval; I know this. But on the flip side of the coin, that’s also part of how I hold her accountable when she asks me to do so. I’m letting her know that I am paying attention, but even then, I will be sure to praise all she did complete.
Suffering from depression, I know there are days that I’m happy if I just muster up the to put done. pants. People may not realize it, but when I step outside, they are happy about this as well. So, when she makes meals for children, hosts dinners for friends from church, call people who are struggling with health issues, these are all astounding accomplishments in my mind’s eye. So, if she forgets, for example, to finish cleaning the bathroom, I see that as a minor thing. It seems the obvious and, frankly, easy thing to reflect her accomplishments back to her, and praise what she had finished.
Maybe it becomes more difficult with time. With familiarity it’s all too easy to just not notice things that are done routinely. We take clean clothes and regular meals for granted. Maybe we need to get in the habit of checking ourselves. What have we failed to notice today? It should be easier to realize these little things when we are forced to do them for ourselves, but even then, I’ve seen people just overlook it.
When I was living in Boston, my friend came home one day and asked why nobody says hello to her when she walks in or asks her how her day was. I was living with them at the time, watching their child in exchange for room and board, and I realized that I was part of the problem, too. From that point forward, I made it a point to always greet her and ask about her day. In fact, at one point she said that while she appreciated my efforts, she was hoping her husband and son would do this.
It’s a fair and legitimate observation.
Tonight, ask your significant figure how their day was if you haven’t already done so. Ask what they’ve done but be sure it’s in a supportive manner as opposed to accusatory. Find something on which to compliment them and remember that the “little things” really do count. If you show how much you notice of their efforts, trust me, they’ll truly appreciate it. Choose the path of support and appreciation.