Many of us would have experienced the discomfort of a “failed transaction” – especially when this happens in public. As we mature, the need to succeed seems to strengthen, and the willingness to tolerate and then learn from “mistakes” diminishes. The kind of “failed transaction” I’m sharing with you today is not, however, a mistake – at least not by the person that receives one. Today, I’m talking about the failure by the other party to complete the transaction satisfactorily.
The transactions I have in mind are acts of kindness or thoughtfulness that are not sufficiently appreciated or even acknowledged. There’s something about this kind of failed transaction that really rankles. Why is this? Jesus said we should give in secret, not expecting any thanks or anything in return – and yet I think this refers to “good deeds” that have another purpose. I, instead, am talking about the social graces that lubricate the smooth running of civilised society. When your thoughtfulness or giving is not in secret, there needs to be a fair exchange for the transaction to be completed. Often it is enough to get an enthusiastic and genuine “thank you!”
“When you walk through my world, got to show some respect…”
To borrow a line from song by 10cc, “When you walk through my world, got to show some respect…” Isn’t it interesting that all societies place huge value on the showing of respect? Whether you’re on my turf, my territory, or just parking outside my house – you’ve got to show some respect! Why is this so important? Transactional Analysts talk about the centrality of attention to people’s well-being. They talk about units-of-attention, which they call “strokes”. Strokes (just like physically stroking something) can be positive, negative or neutral. Examples of positive strokes include physically hugging someone (appropriately), and saying a genuine “Thank You!” Negative strokes can be things like hitting someone or giving someone a piece of your mind. Neutral strokes can be any form of ignoring or excluding someone.
“Some people are so poor, they can’t even pay attention!”
It seems we all have emotional or attentional ledgers. Like any Savings or Bank Account, there are deposits, withdrawals, and investments. Most people, when asked, believe that they give out more than they receive. They believe they are not sufficiently appreciated. Their good work is not noticed. This sad state of affairs may be because most of us have our attentional ledgers in the red. We have a positive-stroke deficit. In an ideal world, we would all get more of the physical attention that we appreciate. For some people this would be hugs and massage – whereas for others this would have a negative effect! Doing unto others what you would have them do to you (in this case) could be disastrous. Many a hot-blooded, heterosexual male who has bought his partner racy lingerie can attest to the lack of success of this strategy! Here is the heart of the challenge – we all need more positive attention, but it needs to be calibrated to each person’s preferences.
One Size does not fit all
As an Emotional/Attentional Detective, your mission would be to work out what constitutes a “positive-stroke” or “positive attention” for each person in your sphere of influence. If you have the energy to persevere with your investigation, the results will be stunning and long-lasting. If it is true that the vast majority of people don’t get enough of the right attention, you’ll be an absolute hero if you can work out what your friends, family, and associates value. Our differing preferences for the form of positive attention is often mirrored by our psychological preferences. More extraverted types may appreciate more drama and fuss when it comes to recognition. More introverted types may find this more punishment than reward. What neither type can cope with is being ignored, or people failing to recognise their contribution. This is the failed transaction – either a total failure or being short-changed by a poorly framed exchange – the insufficient or inappropriate response.
What shall we do?
I had an excellent Director at Deutsche Bank close one of my courses in Singapore. It is traditional for our closing speakers to share key lessons they have learned. He said he had learned to communicate, communicate, communicate, and when he was sure he had communicated enough, to communicate some more. I believe it is possible to be more appreciative of others without being insincere or gushing. Our mission could thus be to appreciate, appreciate, appreciate, and then, when we think we’ve shown sufficient appreciation, appreciate again. [Health Warning. If it is also true that people often have a positive-stroke deficit, and therefore are running their accounts from the red, it will mean that it may take a disproportionately large number of positive deposits into their accounts before they begin to show signs of appreciation back. If you begin showing more appreciation, be prepared to wait for the harvest from your good seeds! This may be hard if you are also operating from the red! It is, however, the sign of being a truly evolved being to be able to continue giving when you are getting continuous failed transactions in return. You can be rightfully proud of yourself! To be sensible though, you will need fuel to keep up the good work. This is where self-stroking can help for awhile. Take time to appreciate yourself. Give yourself some treats – and treats on your own terms. This is not nearly as exciting or as powerful as someone else valuing you, but it can keep you sparky for a season.]
When I walk through your world, I will show some respect…