6.How to Spur People on to Success
Pete Barlow was an old friend of mine. He had a dog-and- pony act and spent his life
traveling with circuses and vaudeville shows. I loved to watch Pete train new dogs for
his act. I noticed that the moment a dog showed the slightest improvement, Pete patted
and praised him and gave him meat and made a great to-do about it.
That’s nothing new. Animal trainers have been using that same technique for centuries.
Why, I wonder, don’t we use the same common sense when trying to change people
that we use when trying to change dogs? Why don’t we use meat instead of a whip?
Why don’t we use praise instead of condemnation? Let us praise even the slightest
improvement. That inspires the other person to keep on improving.
In his book I Ain’t Much, Baby-But I’m All I Got, the psychologist Jess Lair comments:
“Praise is like sunlight to the warm human spirit; we cannot flower and grow without it.
And yet, while most of us are only too ready to apply to others the cold wind of
criticism, we are somehow reluctant to give our fellow the warm sunshine of praise.” *
* Jess Lair, I Ain’t Much, Baby - But I’m All I Got (Greenwich, Conn.: Fawcett, 1976), p . 248.
I can look back at my own life and see where a few words of praise have sharply
changed my entire future. Can’t you say the same thing about your life? History is
replete with striking illustrations of the sheer witchery raise.
For example, many years ago a boy of ten was working in a factory in Naples, He
longed to be a singer, but his first teacher discouraged him. “You can’t sing,” he said.
"You haven’t any voice at all. It sounds like the wind in the shutters.”
But his mother, a poor peasant woman, put her arms about him and praised him and
told him she knew he could sing, she could already see an improvement, and she went