Let People Dream


Even if dreams look stupid. To you.


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting one interesting and entertaining lady who gave us a presentation about stress and connection between negative thinking and hormones, stress and health troubles, love and happiness… She is a medical doctor. And a researcher. And many more things.

Among other things, she told us about many occasions when we give feedback to someone and we tell them something good, but we follow it with the infamous “but“. And she said that this “but” kills all hormones of happiness produced during the previous positive comment. We should wait at least one day before we tell someone about areas for their improvement or before we criticize them.

And I decided to apply this knowledge immediately. With one of my associates. When she delivered a document to me, it was good but not perfect. But I only said it was very good. Three days later I gave her additional comments on what she can improve. Another project that she delivered in between was even better than the first one. Again, I just said – fantastic! Great job! This had very positive influence on her performance and our relationship.

Then I remembered that I worked for the company where people felt obliged to add this famous “but” while giving feedback to their team members or direct reports. Somehow, it was promoted as very healthy and good – you give someone positive, but also negative feedback so that he/she can improve. Over time, one honest intention became a farce – people started inventing negative things for perfectly executed jobs just to give someone “space for improvement”. Sometimes it was so ridiculous that you felt ashamed just to be present there and listen to it.

Oh dear… Can you imagine how many liters of happiness hormone was thrown away through those many years and among so many hundreds of people working there? Isn’t that one unhappy place to be?

As you can see I’m reflecting a bit too much lately. And of course, immediately I started thinking about some of the hardest feedback sessions I had. And I have to admit – I wish I knew this thing about happiness hormones 15 years ago.

It’s not that I was especially tough in giving feedback or that I was a “but” person. On many occasions, I was ready to praise people’s achievements, giving them all possible accolades. I had a different issue: I was always very realistic, down to earth and pragmatic. I thought I should be like that in business because otherwise people will always think I’m just a creative writer pretending that he can do some serious business as well. Because of that I had an issue with people who had some strange wishes, ways of doing things and a bit ridiculous dreams. This was, of course, especially present while I was working in the ad agency and publishing industry.

To those people I was probably very often a “but” person. Or I should say a “butt” person. Not because I thought they were bad or because their ideas were bad, but simply because they were often unrealistic, unnecessary and not very relevant for the business. What I was not always ready to see is that some of those dreams were important to those people no matter what my opinion was or what the reality and opinion of all others involved was. Or that of our clients and audience. By letting them dream, it might have happened that nothing good came out on that particular occasion, but maybe it would have had a positive influence to some future events.

Just to be clear – some of those dreams were diabolic and hazardous to many people around. You might face people with dreams that involve dishonest intentions, humiliation of others or causing trouble and pain to all people involved. In those cases, I’m proud to be a “dream killer”.

Otherwise, let people dream… If you say too many “buts” and kill too many dreams, you will kill your own as well.

Cheers to honest and beautiful dreams! Even the funny, weird and irrelevant ones. Because they might make someone happy. And it will not make you unhappy, just because.

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