So two events over the past few days have left me with a question: is it very American to be openly positive?
On Saturday night Bryan and I were at a surprise birthday party for our friend Belen. It was held on one of those sightseeing dinner boats that cruise up and down the Thames and Belen’s husband Pau had gathered a big crowd of people- some traveling from as far away as the US. The guests were clearly a reflection that Belen is well-loved. Belen is technically Spanish, but grew up all over the world and spent enough formative years in the US that you could easily mistake her for an American.
There came a point in the evening where Pau made a champagne toast to his wife and then Belen, the more gregarious of the two, appropriately saw fit to thank her crowd of loved ones. She very eloquently spoke about being surprised and why the date had personal meaning for her and then she began to speak about how her friends are the reason she is who she is and how grateful she is for them/us – and this is where my ears perked up – she then turned to a table of European business school friends who were sardonically chuckling and jokingly excused herself, saying something to the effect “I’m sorry for sounding so American but I really am so touched and love you all.”
What the- Come again?
But then the terrible DJ started up with repeat playings of that Taio Cruz hit and I just kept mouthing the words to the superior Hanukkah remix and I forgot the whole thing. Until this Monday.
Monday I went to a lunchtime lecture session at work given by a child educational psychologist. The focus of the talk was ages 2-5 and so naturally I was, literally, on the edge of my seat. I hung on to every syllable out of this man’s mouth. It was like he was the wisest man in the universe, simply because he was speaking about something I needed to know about immediately, and I was able to hear it for free, without reading a book and while already at work. A win win win win. I was pretty pleased.
At some point somebody in the audience asked a further question about behavior and discipline, and the speaker explained the universally-known but rarely-practiced truth that children want attention and will take any kind they can get, even the negative kind. And that, in the end, the carrot works overwhelmingly better than the stick. His message was to find opportunities for praise in situations which might diffuse or divert a potential meltdown. He started to give examples of praise and then all of a sudden caught himself, looked around, and actually said to us: “I guess I am sounding a bit American. Next thing you know I will say ‘good job’!!”. Emphasis on “Good Job” of course, for comedic effect. And the crowd went wild.
And so there it is. It turns out it is hilarious that Americans are so demonstratively, effusively, happily, emotively supportive of one another.
You may not have realized that. Now you do. Laugh away. HA HA HA HA HA. We love each other.