Social Skills

Strokes come in four varieties

Strokes come in four varieties- Positive or Negative and Conditional and Unconditional

In earlier posts we’ve introduced the idea of ‘strokes’ as a basic currency of good conversational skill and relationship building.  Click here for a definition of ‘strokes’ and here to understand their their uses.  In this piece we’ll look a the four different kinds of  strokes.

Positive and Negative Strokes

Positive stokes are a deliberate attempt by the giver to leave the receiver feeling good

”I love your dress.”

”I was impressed by the way you handled that call”

While negative strokes are deliberate attempts by the giver to leave the other person feeling ‘slapped’ and can be painful.

”That tie’s a bit loud.” or

“this calculation has 234 errors! You must be more careful”

This does not mean that negative strokes are necessarily bad. They can be an important source of feedback for all of us. But in the networking sense we should learn to ignore real or imagined negative strokes, and focus on giving positive ones. Then there are a further 2 types of stroke. Conditional and unconditional.

Conditional or Unconditional Strokes

Conditional strokes relate to what people do, and reward them because of something the’ve done, or are.

 “you’re great the way you’re always cheerful”.

”Thanks you for doing that for me, I was really up against it”.

Unconditional strokes relate to who a person is, and are a ‘pure’ form of stroke.  You’re just saying ‘you’re OK’ to someone with no conditions attached.

“that was a great piece of work”

”You’re lovely to have around”

So the strokes that we should practice giving are positive, unconditional strokes that are intended just to make someone feel good, with no ulterior motive or condition attached.

You can practice.  Just look for opportunities to say relevant, sincere things to friends, colleagues and strangers with no thought other than to add a ‘zing’ to their day. Today I was boarding an aircraft, and the girl taking my ticket had great hair.  So after I’d handed her my ticket, I simply said- ‘I love your hair’ and walked on to the plane.  She smiled beautifully, said thank you, and that was it.  I wasn’t flirting, I didn’t look back, I just stroked and walked. Try it and see the difference it makes to your day.

In the next post we’ll look at ‘stroke balance’ and see if we give and get enough strokes in our lives, and see if we can redress whatever imbalances there may be.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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