Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Pygmalion Phenomenon: Bringing Out the Best Within

Thank you for all your kind words last post. Some of them made me blush. But your kindness warms my heart. They made me think of a book I’m reading, psychotherapist Piero Ferrucci’s The Power of Kindness, where he talks about the Pygmalion Phenomenon. (It’s a great read—I highly recommend it!)

This is when someone believes you are a certain way and because of their belief in you, you become that way. (See the My Fair Lady connection?) If a person thinks we are beautiful and elegant and tell us so, we begin to have the confidence and grace of a beauty. The same is true if we think we are athletic, smart, or etc. Suddenly, we are improving in those areas. 

Ferrucci tells a story about how when he was giving a lecture to a large group of people, a friend pointed out an individual and said he was very funny and could tell good jokes. Later, when Ferrucci had an opportunity to talk to the man he thought his friend pointed out, he said, “I hear you are very funny and tell great jokes.” The man, who was in the corner, quiet and by himself, looked at him in wonder and surprise. But all throughout Ferrucci’s lecture, he cracked jokes and brought a lot of fun to the night. Only later, when Ferrucci met back up with his friend, did he find out the mistake: his friend had pointed to a different person—not that quiet man in the corner. By the sheer attention given, Ferrucci had given the other man the confidence to express a side of him others in the room had never seen.

I love this story. First, because it illustrates the power each one of has in influencing others for good. And second, because we all have latent characteristics that can be enhanced by association with another. With effort and the right tutelage, our potential is really limitless.

Our weaknesses and our unexpressed characters can become strengths when we believe in each other.
It reminds me of another quote I tell my kids:

What does it have to do with writing? You guessed it: give yourself and your writing friends that positive confirmation to do the things they may be thought beyond them. 

I’ve just read two great manuscripts by two lovely friends. This isn’t the first time I’ve critiqued for them. These friends and I have come a long way together in our writing paths—but to see how much their self-editing skills have blossomed holds me in awe of them. They are destined for great writing dreams come true and I’m so happy for them. It’s like watching Audrey Hepburn walk into Henry Higgin’s house and look Rex Harrison in the eye. Only this time she kicks him and gives him the what-for. All in a lady-like way, of course. She’s that good.


  1. I love this post, Jackee! Every writer needs a friend like you. So fragile is the beginning writer’s self esteem. We are like the robin’s eggs deposited in a windy corner, exposed to the elements. I think back to the positive comments I received when I first put forth a fledgling effort; how I wouldn’t have continued if not for the positive feedback I received. Kick the naysayers in the you-know-what, in a lady-like way, of course.

  2. Love this, Jackee! I use that quote all the time in my classroom! It's so true. After my students do presentations in class, their peers always have a chance to tell them what they did well. It's one of my favourite things watching how kids blossom under the kind words!

  3. What a great post. That is why it's important we keep positive people around us. If children and adults are given negative messages, it's that much harder to have the inner strength to overcome them.

    It reminds me of a line in Accidental Tourist, near the end, which goes something like:
    It's not enough to love--it's who you become when you're with that person.

    And after reading this post, I believe more than ever that who you become has a lot to do with how the one you love perceives you.

  4. This post makes me wish I'd been a better mother LOL.

  5. Popping back in to say thanks for the tip on the editing post - it's awesome! I might even be able to wrap my head around it :)

  6. Wonderful post, Jackee - and a great reminder of the power of our words!

  7. This is inspiring. Now I want to watch My Fair Lady again.

    And this: this I am posting on my wall: "And second, because we all have latent characteristics that can be enhanced by association with another. With effort and the right tutelage, our potential is really limitless."

  8. She's my favorite actress. :o)

    Another great post, Jackee! Thank you for sharing this. I may have to pick up The Power of Kindness.

  9. Great post, Jackee! You are a wonderful person and you make me strive to be a better person. (((hugs)))

  10. LOVE this quote and article. George B. Shaw was such an inspiration for me - Pygmalion the play is a MUST read.