We read recently about a psychology professor (always experimenting, you know) who picked a dozen acquaintances at random and sent them a message:
“Congratulations, you should be very proud. I’m delighted to hear about it.”
The professor promptly received 12 thank you notes reporting promotions, credibility, sports accomplishments and the like. Some even expressed surprise at the professor’s note but none declared that they deserved no congratulations.
We had earlier experienced this first hand in a college social psychology course where the students were required to approach ten acquaintances and say “congratulations.” The anecdotal class report was that 80 percent of the recipients said, “Thanks, how did you know?”
And we wonder why people are so caught up in wanting positive reinforcement and why management literature (as well as parenting literature) has drilled this concept of positive reinforcement and enhancing self esteem since the dawn of supervision.