The importance of a pat on the back

28 January 2020 | Columns

Ester Kamati

We often overlook how important it is for a person to be thanked or praised after they’ve put their energy into something which eventually materialises. People are so quick to judge that barely anything is impressive to them, and they have a habit of comparing another person’s success to their own capabilities.

Most of the time, the inability to recognise somebody else’s efforts undermines their confidence in their work, art or abilities. This is not to say that people live just for validation from others, but feeling appreciated is proven to improve individuals’ work ethic, morale and ultimately performance.

In the workplace, this pat on the back comes in the form of rewards such as a bonus, employee recognition awards, a salary increase or a promotion. This ultimately is an indicator that the work that you are doing is sufficiently impressive and noticeable.

At school level, this pat on the back is reflected through prize giving, gifts from your teacher based on performance and sometimes even public acknowledgement in front of your peers. Other times, it is through putting in a good word in your testimonial or agreeing to be a reference on your CV.

Ultimately, at home parents have a habit of not saying the words but through random acts of kindness. It materialises when your mom makes your favourite dish or buys those headphones that you have been fussing about. It is in those moments where your dad offers to drive you to your friend’s house or takes you shopping. It is in the moments that they do the things that they normally wouldn’t just to show you their efforts in ensuring that you are ultimately happy.

Now of course there are those people who will continue to ‘do their thing’ regardless of people’s comments or lack of notice but for others, hearing that they are making great strides puts back the confidence that they have in what may have become a repetitive task or after what they would describe as a performance that could have been better. It is one thing to know that you have done a decent job and it is another to hear from somebody else that you have impressed them or allowed them to see things differently. It simply puts back that hop in your step that you might have lost somewhere along the way.

These complements are sadly mainly given by strangers and it is great to see that somebody you have never met before is noticing your work. It is however more impactful to hear these comments from people whom you closely interact with because as much as a stranger may be impressed by you, they do not know what you are capable of and thus do not know what performance level would satisfy you as a great performance.

Friends are normally the most critical people and often will tell you the harsh truths that you do not want to hear. Considering the level of honesty fostered in friendships, when you hear a friend tell you “well done”, that is a valuable moment.

Affirmation is necessary, although it becomes toxic when you feel the need to hear it regularly because there isn’t always going to be a support character highlighting how great your last column was or how beautiful you looked at that event. It is advisable to develop yourself to be able to give yourself that pat on the back and for that to be sufficient. It is okay to clap for yourself, because you may be the only one who knows or can appreciate the level of hard work that was invested in something or the value of it or the relief that comes with having finished the task.

As a human, it is only normal for one to seek affirmation from one’s surroundings or support system because at the end of the day, that is the main reason that support systems are given that importance. Not just to fall back on when you reach a low but to rely on when you have a drop in confidence or wanting somebody to be happy for you when you’ve reached a great milestone.

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