Not long ago I received a message. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that something I’d felt creatively self conscious about became the subject of a smattering of compliments. This person didn’t know I needed a pep talk on that particular day, but they were kind enough to give me one.
I recently learned that this process has a name, and discovered just why it’s so powerful. It’s a brain science thing. It’s called a strengths barrage, and consists of bombarding someone with genuine compliments. You’ve probably both done and experienced it before. It sounds a little something like this:
You are amazing!!! You are a total badass.
Are you kidding me?!? You got this!
You are so crazy talented. I know you can do it!!
It’s filled with positivity, a pinch of incredulity, and generally uses a lot of exclamation points.
The reason it works is twofold:
First, it counters our negativity bias. We’re naturally inclined to remember negative things more easily than positive ones. This made sense in the early days of our evolution – the dangers were many, and it helped to remember them as efficiently as possible. But we never really developed a mental box for the good things – so we have to help each other out.
Second, women in particular tend to discount our strengths. This is scientifically documented, although I’ll spare you the research. Ladies, you know what I mean. For practical purposes, this means our negativity bias is even more tenacious. It takes an extra bit of effort to break through that protective layer.
A strengths barrage is a way of bombarding the other person with so much positivity that their negativity bias is overwhelmed. It’s a process of pelting them with so many genuine compliments that they start to break through our outer layer. It’s particularly useful before a stressful situation – a job interview, a social engagement, a professional spotlight. But, I think it’s best used early and often.
So, today I extend a challenge. Find someone you love and admire and tell them. Out loud, over the phone, in person, or in email. Pelt them with compliments. Bombard them with positivity. Use exclamation points!!! And don’t let up until they hear you.