By Dr. Russ
Monday is Dr. Russ Busster Day. Today I discuss the role that acceptance plays in helping others get more optimism in their day. As you help others with their optimism so too does your optimism improve.
Let’s begin by answering the question: What are the characteristics of an accepting environment?
I can recall and identify times in my life dating back to elementary school when I was in a very accepting environment with one other person, a small group, or an organization. I can also remember times when I felt unaccepted in one or more of these settings.
One of my first recollections of acceptance came from my 4th grade teacher who actually came and sat on my lap the first day of class, put her arm around my shoulder and told me she had heard many good things about me and that she knew I was a good person and would work hard and be positive contributing member of the class. She had my undivided attention for the rest of the year. Contrast this experience to my third grade teacher who made it a daily and practice to yell at the class and repeatedly at certain individuals. She yelled so much she acquired the nickname “Miss Monster.”
What were the effects of these contrasting environments? In the fourth grade, I felt motivated to work hard and do my best. I felt like I could freely express ideas and take risks of expressing my opinions even if there might be disagreement. It was OK to make a mistake and be wrong. I looked forward to going to school everyday and seemed free of worry and anxiety.
In third grade, we lived in fear of being yelled at; afraid to make a mistake or explore ideas. It was hard to complete work for fear of how it might be graded. I had a constant pit of anxiety in my stomach.
Here are five key factors necessary for a climate of acceptance. I take the five letters from the word ACCEPT to provide a handy tool for concept generation and for remembering these five ideas.
A – Allow for the free expression of ideas without fear of rebuke or retribution. There are no stupid questions or answers.
C – Be comforting and comfortable, both psychologically and physically. If the setting is perceived as psychologically and physically comfortable people in that space will feel relaxed and able to tap into their creative, inspirational and most motivated selves at will.
C – Correction is characterized by a constant desire to improve through self-correction and self-righting with an openness to constructive criticism from trusted colleagues and mentors.
E – Evaluation. The key here is to take a non-evaluative and non-judgmental stance. Language is both descriptive and tentative and always respects the intrinsic worth of the other. Instead of saying, “That idea is bad,” say instead, “I wonder how that idea will stand up under these circumstances," or “I am just wondering if we did that and such and such happens, what would happen then?”
P – Perfection is sought as an ideal, but imperfection is celebrated day-to-day as the only way to keep making improvements and progress towards that ideal.
T – Trust is established through the creation of a shared belief that everyone is valued and each person strives daily to show others how they are valued in the group or organization. Expressions of value are contained in simple a simple “thank you,” “nice job,” “I really liked your comments today,” “I really like it when you . . .”
Now, think of your relationships with friends, family, church, and the workplace and think of just a few ideas that you could implement to increase a climate of acceptance in those relationships and settings. Now, get started improving another's optimism!!!!