x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Teach yourself to be more appreciative of your successes

A morning spent with autistic children proves more insightful than a lesson in managing children or people in general.

Managers can learn a lot on dealing with employees similar to the way teachers interact with autistic children. Alia Jeiroudi / The National
Managers can learn a lot on dealing with employees similar to the way teachers interact with autistic children. Alia Jeiroudi / The National

Mrs Mariam hugged Sara, 8, saying: "That is such a beautiful badge. You are so talented. Let's work on another one, shall we?"

The autistic little girl eagerly grabbed another yellow happy-face sticker and placed it under the badge-making device.

I was volunteering along with some of my fellow colleagues at Abu Dhabi Centre for Autism and I was mesmerised.

Little Sara made another badge but it was messy around the edges. "That is so beautiful sweetheart but I think you can do much better. Let's give it another go," said Mrs Mariam*.

Sara grabbed another sticker, placed it on the plastic badge and positioned it correctly this time. It was perfect.

"Wow", exclaimed Mrs Mariam. "You are a true artist. You deserve a nice treat. Let's go and have something to eat." They both got up, hand in hand, and headed to the centre's dining room.

It felt so good being there. I did not want our volunteering hours to end. Eventually though, when it was time to leave, my colleagues and I departed with huge smiles on our faces that remained long after we had left.

Sitting on a little chair next to Sara and observing how her teacher dealt with her and her mistakes, was a great eye-opener on how to properly manage people. The positive way Mrs Mariam interacted with Sara is an excellent model of how managers should interact with their employees.

For me, that morning was more insightful than a lesson in managing children or people in general, and it also showed how I can better manage myself.

Days after my visit, I found myself thinking about whether I treat myself the same way Mrs Mariam treated Sara.

Am I encouraging? Do I praise myself when I accomplish something? And when I do end up messing things up, do I simply learn the lesson and move on, or do I go on punishing myself?

We can be our own harshest critics. But should we treat ourselves with more encouragement as portrayed by a teacher toward her autistic student? What stops us from doing so?

It is probably because quite a number of us grew up in an academic environment that emphasises critique over admiration. Some people might confuse self-praise with arrogance.

It might even sound like a bad idea to go easy on ourselves when we make a mistake, for fear of that dissolving into laziness.

Not only is it nice to treat ourselves and those around us well, it is also a smart tactic. And it is not always easy.

For someone like Mrs Mariam, who has to deal with some hyperactive autistic students with short attention spans, it requires a lot of patience and, more importantly, love.

When you love someone, you encourage them to work to their full potential. You do not pick on their mistakes but instead help them to learn lessons from them and move forward. When they succeed, you share their joy and congratulate them.

This is important to think about especially in a work setting. When we feel loved, appreciated and encouraged for what we do, we try harder and eventually perform better.

It would be ideal if all managers treated their subordinates with love and respect. But, before asking that of others, I believe it is important to ask it of ourselves.

Change the way you speak to yourself and you will change the way you feel about yourself. Act in the same way Mrs Mariam did with Sara - do not reward negative behaviour by drawing attention to it, instead get busy by learning from your mistakes.

When you succeed, however, it is a great time to pay attention to yourself. Spend a few minutes congratulating yourself and go out to celebrate. It might feel awkward at first but it will help you to gain confidence and be more productive.

Loving yourself will not just affect the way you talk to yourself but also how you speak to others. It will have a positive impact on your department, colleagues, organisation and everyone you contact.

If everyone sticks to this exercise, soon enough the whole world will start to act like Mrs Mariam and Sara.

* All names have been changed for this article

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati fashion designer and writer. Follow her on Twitter: @manar_alhinai