Several years ago I pulled into the drive-thru at a local restaurant. "W--w--ww---what w--w--w--would you l-l--like today?" the woman asked. I'd heard the kids in front of me. They'd made fun of her and it broke my heart.
"I'd like an order of chicken noodle soup," I said because snow hung in the air.
"Is--is--is th--th-that all?" she asked.
"It sure is. I'm so excited for that soup. It's the best reason to come here."
She stuttered again and told me to pull up to the first window.
As I waited there, I tapped on the wheel and sang with the radio. I did that a lot, but if someone saw me, I'd always act like I was talking on speaker phone or something professional like that. There's just something crappy about being caught singing in the car.
So, the woman came to the window. I'd seen her a million times before. She was always sweet and kind. Her hair normally stayed in a ponytail like mine. She hardly wore any makeup. But this time, she'd done her makeup beautifully. Her hair had this amazing glow to it that can't be bought.
"You look gorgeous!" I said.
"R--r--really?" she asked, stuttering again.
"Yes!" I said. "Your hair. Your makeup. I wish I could do my makeup like that. You're stunning."
She talked to me for a while then. She gave me my soup and we smiled and laughed. It wasn't until I drove away, that I realized something. After I told her how stunning she looked, she hadn't stuttered once!
The whole story reminded me of school, how a positive attitude can often help children far more than a negative one. People forget how powerful words are. What you say can really affect someone. It can build them up and prepare them for great things. It can pull them down so low they won't want to continue on.
I talked about this at the University of Phoenix because the class was filled with future teachers.
When I first wanted to be a writer--especially in college--a lot of people pulled me down. They wanted to point out everything I did wrong. It wasn't until people told me what I did right, that I started to learn. The bad habits began falling away because I wanted to perfect the good things.
I still have a lot to learn, but one thing I do know is that positive reinforcement can do wonders. It can give people courage to pursue their dreams. It can help others learn what they're doing right so they can avoid what they're doing wrong. But most of all, it can give people hope. Whenever I get negative feedback, I remember the kind things people have said--their generosity keeps me going. I guess that's why I write, for the joy of being read because words have power.
Have you encouraged someone recently?
If you'd like more information about me or my books, please visit my author site: www.ecstilson.com