8.Make the Fault Seem Easy to Correct
A bachelor friend of mine, about forty years old, became engaged, and his fiancée
persuaded him to take some belated dancing lessons. “The Lord knows I needed
dancing lessons,” he confessed as he told me the story, “for I danced just as I did when
I first started twenty years ago. The first teacher I engaged probably told me the truth.
She said I was all wrong; I would just have to forget everything and begin all over
again. But that took the heart out of me. I had no incentive to go on. So I quit her.
“The next teacher may have been lying, but I liked it. She said nonchalantly that my
dancing was a bit old-fashioned perhaps, but the fundamentals were all right, and she
assured me I wouldn’t have any trouble learning a few new steps. The first teacher had
discouraged me by emphasizing my mistakes. This new teacher did the opposite. She
kept praising the things I did right and minimizing my errors. ‘You have a natural
sense of rhythm,’ she assured me. ‘You really are a natural-born dancer.’ Now my
common sense tells me that I always have been and always will be a fourth-rate dancer;
yet, deep in my heart, I still like to think that maybe she meant it. To be sure, I was
paying her to say it; but why bring that up?
“At any rate, I know I am a better dancer than I would have been if she hadn’t told me I
had a natural sense of rhythm. That encouraged me. That gave me hope. That made me
want to improve.”
Tell your child, your spouse, or your employee that he or she is stupid or dumb at a
certain thing, has no gift for it, and is doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed
almost every incentive to try to improve. But use the opposite technique - be liberal
with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know
that you have faith in his ability to do it, that he has an undeveloped flair for it - and he