COMMENTARY: Needing Approval More Than Advice

No matter what Gary did, it was never enough to please his father. When he got seven A’s and three B’s, his dad asked about the B’s. When he described

the wonderful girl he’d fallen in love with, he got a lecture cautioning that she may be different than he thought.

He thought he had a great relationship with his son so he was stunned and hurt when Gary turned down an offer to work at his firm and instead took a much lesser job in another town. He tried to talk Gary into staying, explaining the advantages of being close to the family and the pitfalls of moving. Finally, Gary exploded, “Dad, I’m moving to get away from you! I love you, but I can’t stand the way you tear down everything I do.”

Gary braced himself for a counterattack, but for the first time in his life he saw his dad’s mask of confidence dissolve into vulnerability. With tears in his eyes, his dad stammered, “All I ever wanted was to make you better and help you reach your potential and avoid risks. It’s what I do. It’s why my business is so successful. Do you want me to ignore my experience and just be a cheerleader?”

“Dad, our relationship isn’t about productivity,” Gary explained. “You’re my dad. Sometimes I need praise more than a push, and approval more than advice. Constantly trying to make me better just makes me feel worse. It’s not enough that you love me. I need you to appreciate me.”

That’s an important lesson. In personal relationships, there may be benefits to the relentless pursuit of better, but the cost may be too high.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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