The following is a transcript of the presentation entitled “Focusing on Micro-affirmations.”
We can all think of a time when we were communicating with an employee, a student, or our own teenager or friend, when the situation went hopelessly awry. We were left baffled. We planned the discussion and chose our words carefully to avoid a confrontation. What went wrong?
On the other hand, we can also identify times when conversations we dreaded or thought would blow up into a larger issue ended up being resolved with everyone leaving with a positive feeling, regardless of the actual outcome. A disagreement may very well have taken place. You may have received a reprimand. Yet the outcome was positive. Why?
Frequently, it’s the small things that have an impact. Simply giving a student a smile when she’s struggling to expand on her thoughts, or giving a new colleague an encouraging pat on the arm can have a very positive impact. But think of the type of impact bosses, teachers, or parents can make when they interrupt constantly or shake their head while listening to a question. Think what it means when a student is asking for help, but the teacher doesn’t stop grading papers to listen to the student. Think what it means to an employee when he or she is the only one that doesn’t get introduced by the boss in a meeting.
We tend to understand micromessages instinctively and once we become aware of them, we can take the time to stop and identify both micro-inequities and micro-affirmations. If we remain unconscious of them, we’ll fail to identify micromessages in our delivery as well as our reactions. With awareness and training or practice, it’s easy to see how we can use micro-affirmations in the classroom as well as on the job.
There are ways to ensure that your micromessages are micro-affirmations, including the following:
- First, be aware of intentions. There’s a moment just before you react where you can be more thoughtful in your response. Take that moment to ensure that you’re affirmative in your message.
- Second, observe. Look at the different ways that the messages in your classrooms are conveyed. Plan to affirm every student and ensure that others are affirming as well.
- Third, take action. Don’t let micro-inequities go unnoticed. Find a way to acknowledge the occurrence and address it in a positive way.
- Finally, coach. For instance, before teaching a new concept, have your students reflect on a positive experience they had from learning something new. This can affirm their ability to learn.
Take a moment to reflect on your own experiences. Can you think of a specific incident where you were unintentionally discouraged or hurt by something small someone said or did? At the same time, can you think of an incident where you were deeply valued by your colleague or family member in a small but powerful way? How did you know? What did that person do to communicate your value?
Consider recording your thoughts in a journal. This can be a way for you to practice identifying micromessages and ensuring that your own micromessages are micro-affirmations.