Narrate the Positive

I taught for a number of years in a remarkable middle school where student trust and cooperation were earned. Put another way, classroom management was a constant challenge.

One of the most effective classroom management techniques is to “narrate the positive”. That is, to verbally recognize the excellence and effort that you see. Even if it is only one or two students, calling out these positive exemplars can transform a classroom.

I see Mr. Smith has closed his Chromebook and is thoughtfully annotating the text.

I see Mr. Johnson is carefully editing his partner’s story according to the rubric. Outstanding.

Soon, the whole class is caught in the virtuous cycle.

What if we chose to do this more in public life?

I appreciate your generous risk-taking when you…

And what if we did this in the church?  

I appreciate how you vulnerably live your vocation because…

Let’s commit to imaginatively narrate the positive more often.

Painting Together

When Leonardo da Vinci was fourteen, he began working in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, a superlative Florentine artist.  (Verrochio’s teacher was Donatello.  These people were good.)

As art historians studied the paintings that came out of Verrochio’s workshop, they saw that many artists contributed to the same canvas.  That is, Leonardo, Verrochio, and associates painted on the same canvas in order to create the same Renaissance masterpiece.

Can you imagine?  Consider the patience, empathy, and communication needed to paint a consistent, astounding whole.

We need these same skills as we build our communities, large and small.

Relationship-Garden Audit

Think of three people who you love and respect, but who value different things than you.

Maybe they do not vote like you. Maybe they don’t believe what you believe. But you still love, respect, and communicate well with them.

How did you come to love them? Where did this relationship grow?

As we consider how to strengthen our communities, a good place to start is get curious about the gardens where these relationships grow.

5 to 1

The Gottmans observe that healthy relationships have a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative comments.  That is, for every negative interaction (during a conflict, say), a healthy relationship has five (or more) positive interactions.

I think this is also true in professional, social, and church communities.

Reaching this 5:1 ratio can be difficult, and particularly so when we are learning something new.  Raising a child.  Learning to be in a new place.  Adapting to a new process.

Two bits of good news, though.

1) The challenge to reach 5:1 invites us to verbalize gratitude more often than we typically might.

2) Appreciating how hard someone is working to reach the 5:1 ratio counts as a tally in the positive column.

Advice as Autobiographical

Advice that we offer to others tends to be autobiographical. That is, we tend to give the advice that we need (or have needed) to take.

To the extent that this writing constitutes advice, the above observation is quite true. It is largely my failures in accompaniment, attentiveness, and contribution that fuel my interest to develop language and practice around this topic.

So please know that, if what I write seems like advice, I’ve let that advice into my own life first.