“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.” – Scudder N. Parker
When we are kids we are encouraged and rewarded for every little step forward we take whether it’s a literal step forward when we learn to walk or a metaphorical one in acquiring new skills or the fact that we ate the entire serving of mashed veggies. But later on things change, we are no longer praised for the good things, yet we are always punished in some sort of way for the bad and more importantly we are nagged for all the things we should be.
What’s interesting is that as adults, we respond to the same type of stimuli we did as kids, but we rarely receive them or sometimes even understand how much of a difference they would make. If you doubt this statement in any way, just think about your favorite supervisor and your least favorite one at work. What did they do? And more importantly what did you do consciously or unconsciously as a response to their behavior.
One of my first supervisors was a man who became more of a mentor to me. Even though I was a newbie with barely any experience, he taught me what I needed to know, watched me do it and then encouraged me to do more. In the first six months I went from a junior position to a senior one and became one of his trusted advisors. I became exactly what he encouraged me to be and what he needed me to be and I strived every day to be better and learn more. And even though this experience happened about 10 years ago, it’s still something that to this day shows up and influences who I am in the world today.
I’ve also had to deal with the opposite of that, the nagger, the micromanager, and the person who was always completely unsatisfied no matter what I did or how I did it. The person who complained when I did have initiative and also complained when I didn’t. There was no win and not only did I feel like I wasn’t growing, but after a while I felt myself getting smaller and smaller. I understood in that moment that it was time to move on and I did exactly that.
Beyond our work relationships that are always easier to change and move on to a different and better situation, this pattern transfers into our personal lives too. Sometimes we encourage our partners to step into their power and become a better person every day and other times we nag them to them point where all they want to do is run away. A lot of times in relationships, nagging comes out of a sense of care. We want the other person to be better and we point to all the things they could improve. We keep pointing over and over because we think at some point they will get the hint. And sometimes they do change, not because they want to, but because they want the nagging to stop. That change however is never long lasting because it never started in the right place to begin with. Eventually all that nagging just turns into frustration on both ends and one way or another it ruins the relationship either temporary or for good.
Yet if we always see the best version of that person and we always encourage them to be better every day, to strive for their goals and to strive to be the person they want to be instead of the person they’ve been, that’s when the miraculous change happens. That’s when people bloom right before our eyes, when they flourish into the most amazing version of themselves and we look at them in awe almost doubting that what we see is real.
Next time you have the tendency to nag someone for all the things they’re not, change your perspective and encourage them for all the things they are and could be. Empower them to be the best version of themselves, show them what it feels to see themselves through your eyes, show them how bright that image is.