That’s because we all long to be “seen”, and “seeing” people is essential to being able to affirm them. We want our supervisors to see us, our efforts and contributions. We want our subordinates and colleagues to see us; even our customers. The same goes for most if not all of our relationships - we humans long to be seen. And what does it mean to be seen? To be seen means that another person recognizes you, your uniqueness, and appreciates the seemingly countless ways in which you contribute.
But that’s not all: affirmations contribute to a foundation of trust needed to hear and respond to critique. That’s right, when a correction or constructive feedback is heard by someone with a strong foundation of affirmations already in place, its much easier to hear the correction. When people feel seen, when they’re confident and have self worth, our constructive (and hopefully gentle) critiques aren't heard as criticisms but rather gentle corrections and opportunities to grow. And affirmations build that - confidence and self worth. In the context of an affirming relationship, feedback is a reflection of the belief in an individual’s ability to integrate the feedback and evolve.
Which is why I’m a fan of what I call the affirmation ratio. The affirmation ratio is my way of thinking intentionally about how I’m building up and supporting my people, my reports, subordinates, colleagues, and partners. Everyone thrives in affirming cultures and when affirmations are regularly banked every day/week, people feel seen, heard, and safe. And when they feel that way, that’s when its easiest to have hard conversations. And when hard conversations are easy and when professionals feel seen and valued, that's when we do our best work.
Consider making your own affirmation ratio and keep track of the ways in which you build people up in the workplace.