We were on the road last Tuesday, and stopped by a Taco Bell to grab some lunch. When we were finished, I said to my son and EC, “I need to talk to the manager.” My EC looked pained – she hates it when I call people out.
I walked up to the counter:
“May I speak to the manager, please?”
A young man, mid-twenties I’m guessing, heard me and approached the counter with a look of friendliness mixed with dread. Oh, no. Another grumpy customer.
“May I help you?”
“Are you the manager?’
I began: “We have eaten at Taco Bell for years, and there is one thing that constantly bothers me: The food never, ever looks – even remotely – as nice as it does on the posters.” I nodded to the menu behind him. “Things are usually just thrown together by someone who isn’t even paying attention.”
The manager winced and looked nervous, but didn’t say anything. It was time to drop the hammer:
“We ordered a Nachos Supreme today, I wanted to tell you that it was the nicest, most well-constructed Nachos Supreme that I have ever seen in my life. It looked like the picture.”
He instantly looked relieved, but I wasn’t done.
“In fact, everything we ate today was great, and I just figured you should know that your people are doing a really good job, and I appreciate it.”
He looked so happy. He said, “Thank you for saying that! Usually people only talk to us when we screwed something up – they never talk to us when we do it right. I really appreciate it.”
I said, “Thank you, and keep up the good work.”
I turned and headed out the door, but not before I heard an excited voice coming from the kitchen. “Holy crap! Did you hear that? That was awesome!”
My EC and son looked curious, so as we walked to the car I explained the conversation. It made us feel good, and it was nice to know it made them feel good, too.
I do that kind of thing quite often, but before you lionize me for being Mr. Courteous, please know that I am also quite willing to address the opposite side as well. I have no problem calling out bad food or bad service – I consider it a public service that I offer. My EC, on the other hand, would rather not eat a meal that she paid for than actually send it back. I make her cringe sometimes. I just hope that the “karmic balance” falls in my favor.
A couple months back, two Apostles and two Seventies came and help a fireside in our area for the parents of teenagers. (Apostles M. Russel Ballard, and Dale G. Renlund, and Seventies Lynn G. Robbins and Joaquin E. Coasta)
The topics were primarily parenting and mission prep. Since the comments were directed at a specific audience, and not the entire church, I won’t delve in to what they said, but there is one comment that stuck with me that I will share, in a second.
Elder Robbins talked about how Heavenly Father would publicly praise His son, Jesus. (He didn’t list instances, so here are four.)
- At the Savior’s baptism: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)
- On the Mount of Transfiguration: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt 17:5)
- Appearing to the Nephites: “Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.” (3 Nephi 11:7)
- Appearing to Joseph Smith: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS History 17) (“Beloved” is praise all by itself, right?)
The point? Heavenly Father was pleased in His son, and willing to tell anyone who could hear.
What Elder Robbins said about parenting that stuck in my head is this: “We should look for opportunities to catch our children doing something right.”
It is an idea I have seen written about before, but I was racking my brain trying to figure out who else I heard mention this in a General Conference setting. Turns out it was Elder Ballard:
‘I hope it goes without saying that guilt is not a proper motivational technique for leaders and teachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must always motivate through love and sincere appreciation, not by creating guilt. I like the thought “Catch others doing something right.”‘ (link)
We are on the tail-end of raising our five kids. I wish that I had given more thought to this idea back in 2006 when Elder Ballard taught it. There were so many opportunities that I let slide by to catch one of my kids doing something well.
For example, there were times I opened a door, to be greeted by one of them kneeling in prayer. I would quietly shut the door and leave them be. The missed opportunity was to praise them later for what they were doing. Many times the dishes, or yard got done without any acknowledgment from me.
It is so much easier to freak out about a “C” on a report card than to celebrate an “A.” It is more common to complain than to praise. Sometimes we set expectations at such incredibly high levels that we don’t notice the excellence, but fixate only on the problems.
And this concept isn’t limited to parenting. President Linda K. Burton asked a similar question in General Conference, “When was the last time I sincerely praised my companion, either alone or in the presence of our children?” (link)
Children, spouses, co-workers, employees, teachers, even the dude at Taco Bell would probably love to hear words of appreciation and encouragement from us. Instead, some of them only hear from us when they did something wrong.
Please don’t confuse this with false praise. I find the idea of fawning over someone when it isn’t really deserved to be patently dishonest. That is why Elders Ballard and Robbin’s words speak to my heart. There are real reasons out there to offer words of praise and encouragement – but sometimes you have to be actively looking for them. (Sometimes you really have to look hard!)
Idea: Everyday, I am going to try to pay attention and offer words of praise to somebody that I catch doing good job. Maybe one of my kids, maybe my EC, maybe an employee, maybe the dude at Circle K. I know from experience that it can brighten their day, and that it does brighten my day.