There are lots of ways that we offer affirmation to others without actually saying the words “atta boy” or “atta girl.” The effect, however, is unmistakable. We can notice an increase in productivity at work, a certain “can do/will do” attitude among team members to dig in to a project and see it through to completion. We comment on the member who took initiative or really hustled in getting a critical analysis completed. People sacrifice their pet ideas for the sake of the whole. Such teamwork inspires people to do even greater things than they would have thought possible.
I have noticed that an “atta boy” type of response to someone can have a positive ripple effect. Recently, I was getting some deli meat sliced at the butcher counter. The young man serving me was friendly enough but seemed a bit grumpy. He asked me how much I wanted and I told him one pound. He sliced and piled. I watched. His last piece registered exactly one pound on the scale. I made a “touchdown-like” gesture and said, “step away from the scale.” He laughed, smiled, and said something about hitting it every now and then.
I said, “that’s when you step back and say ‘don’t hate me because I’m fabulous.’”
He was chuckling as he put the rest back into the case. He tipped his head in a confident manner and said, “well, you know….” And put his hands up like “what can I say….?”
I turned to leave. I noticed that the person next to me was enjoying our banter. I said my goodbye and watched as he turned to the new customer. He had a big smile on his face and his greeting was genuine. He told the new customer that that doesn’t always happen. She laughed and said that it was okay. What happened next blew me away!
“You have such a friendly demeanor,” she said sincerely, “And you have made my shopping a pleasant experience.” He was genuinely touched. His colleagues heard and saw everything. They were smiling, too. Ripple effect…
Our “atta boy” or “atta girl” encouragements are focused on positive behavior. They are not directed at the person’s character. Starting with the belief that people are intrinsically valuable and inherently good, we know their core essence is good. They may make poor decisions and hurt people along the way. Restorative justice and restitution may be required. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. With an “atta boy/girl” comment or interaction, I’m reinforcing their core goodness. And I’m calling them to BE the people they already ARE in the eyes of God.
When people are seen as capable and worthwhile, they act like it. Likewise, when people are constantly told that they are worthless and incapable and treated as such they wither. They end up demonstrating whatever negative label has been applied to them. So, it just makes sense to me that if we want people to live up to their fullest potential and exhibit their God-given giftedness, then we would benefit everybody by consciously recognizing goodness and applying affirmations in all our interactions with others.