Following on from my blog on my lift theory, Steve Lyes emailed me about a Christian author called David Seamands who writes about the theory of strokes. The idea is that positive strokes enhance us and build us up, negative strokes hurt and diminish us. To fit in with my lift theory I'm going to rename strokes as floors (hopefully I won't get into any trouble for doing that).
Here's the interesting thing about the theory. Not all encouragements or discouragements are created equal. Everything we do has a number of floors (strokes) associated with it. Here's how it works.
If you point out something positive about a specific thing a person has done, that takes them up one floor. So for instance "thanks for that cup of tea you made me" is a one floor up encouragement. But pointing out something positive about who somebody is, that is worth ten floors. So saying to somebody "I love the sense of joy you bring into my life" will take them up the equivalent of ten comments on specific things they have done.
It gets more scary on the negative side. Criticising somebody for something specific they have or haven't done will take them down ten floors. So "why didn't you buy beans when you went to the shop" is a ten floor criticism. But criticising somebody for who they are will take them down one hundred floors - "why are you always so unthoughtful" has ten times the negative impact of "where are the beans"!
I thought that all sounded a bit extreme, until I began to review things that people have said and written to me in the past. I often barely remember the encouragements and the positive things people have said, but could repeat in forensic detail some of the negatives that have come my way. I'd be very surprised if you are very different. I remember in particular a respected Christian leader in another church who once told me that I had "let myself down, had failed the elders and was an embarrassment to our church" over something I had done. Even though it was several years ago, I can still remember the conversation as if it was yesterday. If I'm honest that was a several thousand floor experience, and still in my darkest moments gets replayed in my mind with a fear that it might be true (fortunately when I sat down and talked to the elders about it Ben Davies just laughed and told me to totally ignore it - one of the many reasons I love Ben so dearly).
So let's be very careful about our words, and recognise the power of what we say. There will be times when we need to say discouraging things to people and face them up with truth (more about that in a future blog), but let's make sure that on balance we take people up rather than down. Why not have a go at analysing you conversations over the next few days and see overall whether you have taken the people in your world up or down in your lift.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on floor theory!