When I was young, I wanted to be a high school football coach when I grew up. And so that was my goal. I didn’t want to teach, but I had to teach to be a coach. Have you ever had a teacher like that? As long as you kept your mouth shut and watched the movie while I worked on my football plays, everything would go all right.

On the last day of school at the end of my first year of teaching, I was walking down the hall and was met by one of my students, a girl named Bev Woodward. She said, “Mr. Tice, I was waiting until now to tell you are the worst teacher I have ever had in my life.”

Well, I couldn’t get mad at her, because it was true. I didn’t care if I taught. At the time, her comment went right by me, but a couple of days later I said, “I don’t want to be like that.” And I remember making a vow: “Nobody will ever say that to me again. I’ll be the best teacher my students will ever have.”

One way I tried to make good on that positive vow was to positively affirm the worth and ability of my students and athletes. I still try to do that. I do that, for example, with my granddaughter, Tiffany.

When Tiffany comes into our home or office, I’ll say, “Oh, Tiffany’s here.” I’ll make a big deal of it. And then I’ll say, “Tiffany always smiles when she sees her grandpa.” And I’ll hope that she’ll smile for me. When she smiles, I say, “I knew you’d smile for me.” Okay. But other people don’t know, so they think, “Oh, what a happy kid.”

Next time I see Tiffany, I’ll say, “Oh, Tiffany is here. She always smiles when she sees her grandpa.” I’ll reach out and smile, and she’ll smile back. And I’ll say, “See?”

Soon others will say, “She smiles for everybody.” “She was just born happy.” “She has a natural, positive disposition.”

how to affirm others

Now, everybody expects her to be happy.

What if you always treated people around you in a very positive, affirming, constructive way, seeing the best in them; helping them see it in themselves? Suppose you repeated your positive affirmations several times. Each time you saw them, you’d tell them again, in another way. You’d continually affirm their worth and their ability. If you are that kind of a mentor or leader at work or at home, you will watch the people grow around you and their growth will be spectacular.

That is the way the best generals, coaches, teachers, executives, and parents are. And this doesn’t mean that they are soft or let people walk on them. They are very firm about what they want done, but they are very constructive, positive, and supportive of you and your way of doing it.

Building Credibility

The reason that General Loeffke could have such influence with Colonel Roe is that Loeffke had tremendous credibility. I could have said the same thing: “I think that you are the bravest man I ever met.” Same words, no power, because Roe would not perceive me as credible. But he knew that Bernie was highly credible, and so if Bernie said he was brave, he was.

You greatly improve your chances of having positive influence with people when you have credibility in their eyes, and you affirm them in connection to their contribution to a purpose or cause or campaign. You can light that spark. You can make a difference. Don’t you get the feeling that you could and should?

Many parents wonder, “How I can work with my children now?” Many managers seek change now. It doesn’t make any difference what area of your life you apply these principles, all parts of your life will be improved.

If you want to get your people to grow, you have got to be perceived as credible in their eyes. You have got to constantly work to enhance your credibility. When you have credibility, you can affirm people with great power.

Credibility is part of your self-efficacy. You need to persuade others to join you in your effort. And they’re always looking to see why they should do what you ask them to do.

They ask, “Why should I act on what you’re telling me?” They want to know if you’re credible. So they ask, “Why should I listen to you?” They look for three things.

Similarity. The first thing they ask is, “How are you similar to me?” So credibility comes when people perceive you as having something in common with them. That’s important to them. “Have you ever done something similar?”

Competence. “If you have done something similar, were you good at it?” Now, even if you were never an expert in a similar area, you could still have credibility with me if you ever coached, managed, or mentored anybody like me to be successful. So you don’t need to be a doer as long as you are a maker of doers. For example, Angelo Dundee, the fight manager of heavyweight champ, Muhammad Ali, could not beat up anybody. How could he manage a world champion fighter? Why would a boxer want to go to him? Because he had coached people like Ali, and he had a great ability to bring the best out of people. So he had immense credibility.

Knowledge. You’ll also have credibility if you know what you’re talking about. Do you have the knowledge?

When you have all threes imilarity, competence, and knowledge you’ll have tremendous power to influence and lead people. They’ll act on what you say.

Constantly develop your credibility in areas where you want to make changes in your community, family, or profession. You’ve got to be perceived as credible, not because you want acclaim but because you want others to be effective when they take action.