The power of appreciation in SALT

How do we know that appreciating strengths works? Well, I know. I am absolutely clear of its power. Here is how I know.
I have told this story twice within the Constellation and on each occasion I have felt a little embarrassed and uncomfortable. But what happened was for me so powerful and changed what I do that I thought I would share it here.
My wife was a governor at our local secondary school. It is quite a large school with about 1,400 pupils. Well, as sometimes happens, there was a struggle between an 'old' set of governors who believed they knew best and knew how to run the school and a new headteacher. This led to warfare in the governing body of the school and my wife went into battle against the old governors and in favour of the new head.
At the start, my wife was on her own and she had to battle long and hard to change things. There were lots of nervous evenings and, at one stage, she even feared that there could be physical violence. She was frightened of what could happen.
All of this involved lots of late nights both before and after confrontations. I guess I did my best and supported her and encouraged her. But finally, at the end of a very long evening, I told her that what she was doing was a GOOD thing; that she was a good person for doing this; that she must be proud of what she was doing; and that the education of lots and lots of children would be improved because of what she was doing. I don't know if I knew it at the time but I had moved from supporting her to appreciating her.
So what was her response to appreciation? She was annoyed. She told me that this was nonsense. She was only doing what she should be doing and that was all there was to it. So I left it at that. And I thought perhaps there was a time to appreciate and a time to keep quiet.
Time went by. And then quite suddenly my wife died. On a Friday lunchtime she was working at (another) school and on Monday lunchtime she was dead. My wife had worked in the school arranging support for children who had 'Special Educational Needs'. This could range from helping children who would live their short lives in a wheelchair through to arranging extra help for a 16-year old who had trouble reading and writing. So she worked with a lot of people who provided this help. And after her death, there came a flood of letters from many people. And time after time, the letters from her colleagues said how my wife had told them that the work that they were doing was a GOOD thing; that they must be proud of what they were doing; that their work would change the life of a human being. And what my wife had said had inspired them in what they did and that they had in turn given this message to a colleague!
We talk about transfer. Just how far has this message gone? I haven't the slightest idea. But I have a suspicion that one act of appreciation several years ago is still influencing people in this part of the world. And that gives me a quiet satisfaction.


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Comment by Risya Kori on April 28, 2010 at 9:58am
I have heard about this story from JL but now I read it through from you. Thank you for sharing...this story means a lot to me.
Comment by ABEDNEGO KITHEKA MUTUNGWA on April 26, 2010 at 6:24pm
Im really sorry for what happened to you
but the powerful thing is the appreciations you wife got ,its something invisible to us ,but the letters sent to wife said it .She remains an important person who made difference in others life

Dont feel embrassed to share this its a blife changing situation to those who are given responsibilities to leader

Im a person with special needs and i can understand the special attachment you wife had to this children
Comment by Afsar Syed Mohammad on April 24, 2010 at 10:32pm
Dear Phil,
Your wife did what she felt was the right thing to do rather than going with the tide. She must have had a very difficult time but she did what she belived in. This story is both inspirational as well as educational. Many thanks for sharing this story.
warm regards
Mohammad Afsar
Comment by swennen on April 24, 2010 at 2:34am
Hi Phil,

impressive story. The lessons I bring are also that one sould keep doing what he thinks it is right and good. Even if it is a small and simple action, it can have a mutliplyer effect. And always when we admire someone or when we find that his behaviour or his actions are good, we have to tell him directly and not waiting until it is too late.
Thanks to share that with us, Phil

Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on April 23, 2010 at 10:34pm
Many thanks Phil, for this posting.

How will AIDS Competence spread faster than the virus, if not through the appreciation o f individual and community strengths?

This is what I learn from your story, which I have told many times since you shared it with us in Chiang Rai.

Again, thanks.

Comment by Taufiq M.A. on April 22, 2010 at 5:12am
Dear Phil,

I'm sorry to hear that your wife has already "gone"! hopefully she's got the right "place" beside God then make her very rest in peace Phil... she did the great work in her past!!! so inspired story!! thanks phil

warm regards,

Comment by Laurence Gilliot on April 21, 2010 at 1:11pm
Hi Phil,

I still remember the time when you share this story for the first time, in Chiang Mai, during the SALT visits in 2008. We were all moved, with tears in our eyes, by this beautiful life-lesson you shared. It set the tone for the whole week SALT visits.

What I learn from you is that it is important to remember that every small thing we do, think and say can have an immense impact. We sometimes think that 'it will not change the world' but it does. Every small positive action makes a difference. I should not forget. Because our actions are like ripples in the water...

Thanks a lot for sharing



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