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Steps 3 & 4: Positive Reinforcement: “Make Others Feel Important"

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Jan 22, 2015

How can you make people feel important?  What benefits do you receive by doing so?

In Positive Reinforcement: 4 Steps to “Make Others Feel Important” (1&2) we provided Brian Tracy’s first two of four steps to making others feel important from his audio describe the imageThe Psychology of Achievement. As a reminder Tracy identifies the four ways we can make people feel important as:

  1. Acceptance
  2. Approval
  3. Appreciation
  4. Attention

Let’s continue with:

Appreciation: Appreciation is possibly the simplest and easiest way to express gratitude.  Yet many of us are simply unable, unwilling or unaware of how powerful it can be.  How often and how sincerely do you say “Please” and “Thank You?”  Many of us are in such a hurry to get somewhere or do something we fail to provide this elementary courtesy.  I’m very cognizant of my failings in this area as I wrote in Attitude of Gratitude – Happy Thanksgiving

When we treat people with excruciating patience, politeness and courtesy we make them feel valued. Tracy notes that as a world traveler he’s gotten across the world safely, courteously, hospitably and with friendship simply by acting as if he is a guest in their home (or this case a country).

Appreciation causes a person to feel valuable.  It helps them feel that what they are doing has value and consequence to others.  More importantly it makes them feel worthwhile.

Why wouldn’t we want to do that?  A “Please” and “Thank You!” are too uncomplicated not to do each time someone provides you with some value.

Admiration:  Admiration is a tremendous way to build self-esteem in another person.  The things we admire in others is always “traits” like punctuality, industriousness, generosity, or selflessness.  We also admire others possessions, or the things that others own. 

When you go to visit a person in their office or their home, the smartest thing you can do is pick something that is obviously attractive, that holds importance in the environment and just say that is a beautiful picture, or a lovely table.  People decorate their homes and offices with things that are important to them. 

Another good way to show admiration is to compliment someone on the way they dress.  Men especially can be very fastidious about the ties and shoes they wear.   It might be their shirt is pressed to perfection and looks clean and razor sharp.   Give another person tribute for how they are dressed and you will apply the principle of admiration and help build their self-esteem.  


To complete this discussion on four steps to make someone feel important we need to discuss criticism. 

If our aim is to develop high self-esteem in others, to make others feel valuable about themselves, it is absolutely essential we never, never criticize.  I’m sure you are saying how can I correct those who I work with if I’m not able to criticize.  So let me provide Brian Tracy’s reasons for why criticism is not how to get better performance.

Tracy states that there is nothing that more destroys human personalities, undermines self-esteem, lowers self-confidence to cause negative if not hostile and violent reaction then the use of destructive criticism on others.

Here’s the key to understanding why.  Nobody ever does anything that they think is wrong.  Man is a rationale animal and is capable of rationalizing any action.


It’s not possible for us to do anything until we have worked it out in our mind, a rationalization that will allow us to be right.

If you attended Dale Carnegie Leadership training you know the story of the criminal who was pulled over by a policeman.  When the police man came up to his window and asked to see his driver’s license he immediately shot the officer.  When asked why he simply offered, “I was defending myself!”

Here are three good reasons to never criticize:  (Not saying this is easy I’m just offering why to help myself and others realize how silly we are to think criticizing anyone does any good.)

  1. Doesn’t do any good.  The person you criticize simply becomes angry and antagonistic.
  2. Tears down people’s self-esteem.
  3. Every time you criticize someone else you tear yourself down simultaneously.

The rule here is to eliminate destructive criticism from your interaction with other people.

Finally one more concept important to making others feel important, or more significant, to prevent tearing others down. 

Never Argue with People.

Have you heard the statement, “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still?”

What happens when we argue with another person?  In effect what we’re saying is that everything about that person, their values, opinions, what they’ve learned is wrong. And guess what?  People hate to be told they are wrong. 

What do you do when you are in a situation then when you can’t allow it to pass?  Tracy’s idea is to create something he calls a “straw man” or a non-existent third party.  Then the person you are engaged with will argue against this non-existent party. 

What you do is to say, if so and so were here, or I was reading in the newspaper, or saw this on TV.  Then offer that opinion and ask them how they would handle this.  What you are attempting to do is get them to consider something they may have not contemplated.  It is much easier for them to back down from someone who is not in the room with them putting up an argument against them. 

Tracy’s advice is valuable.  If you’ve not tried it, do so the next time an argument is about to ensue. I wish I would follow this more closely.  It would save a lot of heartache.

Tracy’s suggests, “Try to eliminate arguing and criticism.” 

In Tracy’s audio tape his admonishment is that it’s not enough to be right, it is only to be effective and to be acceptable and thus part of a social community.  He offers, “if you have to be right or a positive social animal, it is far better to practice being a positive social animal.”

Another lesson on making people feel important is: attention.  We’ll cover this in a future blog.

At the Growth Summit Verne introduced some modifications to the Rockefeller Habits Checklist.  Next blog we will take a look at these changes and why the Rockefeller Habits is an exceptional tool for discovering how much discipline your organization has.  

Topics: Employee Feedback, employee engagement, Employee Recognition, Business Growth, employee performance, positive reinforcement, Psychology of Achievement, Brian Tracy

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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