Everybody—students, teachers and parents—needs a pat on the back every now and then. One of the many great books from the Gallup Organization, “How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life,” talks about this using the analogy of a bucket. The book’s premise is that we all have a personal bucket that needs to be filled with positive experiences like recognition or praise. So we have two choices to make about how to treat people. We can always lean towards being critical and negative, which takes away from their buckets. Or we can be positive, thankful and congratulatory, which fills their buckets and actually makes ourselves feel even more positive. Yes, the premise may sound a little hokey and obvious, but how much time do you really spend consciously treating other people positively?
There are plenty of applications here for managers, teachers, parents, and husbands/wives (as described in the book), but here are a few ways I think high school students could put this to use.
With your teachers
If you’re really enjoying a class, tell your teacher. If your teacher stays after school to help you, tell her how much you appreciated it and how much good it did you. If your teacher helps you with your college essay, or reads over a rough draft and gives you good feedback, or offers you any good advice that really helped you, say so and fill your teacher’s bucket.
With your parents
If you suffer a setback (like a low grade on a test) and your parents are understanding and supportive, tell them how much it helped you to know they were in your corner. If your parents give you good advice to help you through a situation where you needed some guidance, thank them and let them know how much you benefitted from their advice. And if they cheer you on when you have a big success, tell them how much their praise meant to you. Here are a few more suggestions from an old post.
With your friends and classmates
If one of your friends makes the varsity team, sets the curve on a test, or gets accepted to his or her dream college, offer up a sincere congratulations and let your friend know how happy you are. Congratulate the members of the cross country team when they win the league championship, the cast of the school play when they close out their final performance, or the writer on the school newspaper who writes a particularly good article you appreciated. And if one of your friends is there for you in a time of need the way we all need a good friend to be every now and then, express your thanks. Let your friend know the support didn’t go unappreciated.
The message here (and in the book) isn’t that you should lavish thanks and praise on everyone for no good reason—you won’t add anything to their buckets if you aren’t sincere. But heartfelt positivity is free to you and so ridiculously easy to give if you’re conscious about it. It will make you feel good about your relationships with people in your life. And it will go a long way towards making people want to be there for you again in the future.