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A rare success

A person experiencing a rare success will not automatically take credit for it (especially if they have low self-esteem). Some people will minimise their own role in the success - readily explaining the outcome as being due to luck, other people or as an exception.

When success does not breed success

'Success breeds success' does not work so well when the individual minimises their own role in producing the success. They may be so used to 'failure', and believe in themselves so little, that when they have actually caused success, they don't believe it. If they think that success was due to other factors, then they cut themselves out of the positive cycle of 'success breeds success'.

When positive feedback is not believed

In some cases the individual will not believe the positive feedback, and can even believe that they are being made fun of if too much fuss is made of their achievement. If they get embarrassed by being in the spotlight, they may not be too motivated to go through such embarrassment again, and may actually choose to avoid or hide their achievements. Peer group pressure may ridicule some kinds of achievement.

Strategies for getting people to admit their success

  1. Encourage the person to talk about their success. If they are reluctant to talk in front of a group, then find them a partner or a small group in which they will be happier to speak up about their success.
  2. Praise the person about their success. Use reviewing methods that allow the praise to come from several sources - especially from other group members. Such messages will have greater credibility if they feature as part of a session in which everyone is receiving positive appraisal, and not just the individual who is resistant to praise and admitting success (see Feedback)
  3. Create an opportunity for a repeat of the success or for achieving something similar. This should prove it wasn't a fluke or a trick the first time. If 'seeing is believing', then doing is even more so - especially if doing it twice!
  4. If 'admitting success' becomes an issue, then use more acceptable words (temporarily). For example: people who are reluctant to talk about things they do well may be happy to talk about things they 'like' and 'enjoy' doing, and may even admit some improvement (but without calling it or seeing it as a 'success').
  5. Respect the individual Don't force the issue. An individual who is resistant to feedback (even if the feedback is positive) has a right to opt out. By making it OK to opt out, you are showing them respect and you are supporting them. They are then free to choose if and when they change their minds. They are likely to gain more strength from this approach than from being forced into a nonsensical surrender: "OK you win! I'll say I put in a fantastic performance if it will make you happy".

    Let's move on and assume that we now have a person accepting they have achieved something.

    From this point, more options open up.


Successful task completion or successful learning?

The successful completion of a task during a course is a means to an end - the end being the learning that is achieved as a result of taking part in these activities.

Successful completion of activities may not result in much new learning - especially if facilitators are not well equipped for drawing out learning from success.

If facilitators prefer to use reviewing for looking at issues and problems, then learners' interests could be best served by not experiencing too much success during a course!

The alternative is to learn how to use success for learning - and try out a happier route to achieving objectives!


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