Some sayings are familiar and end up being supported by research findings. “It’s easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar,” is one example.

It would be surprising if you didn’t agree with the old saying, yet very few of us practice its advice in our daily lives. Well, researchers have proven once again that positive feedback is in fact more powerful than negative criticism at “catching” behavior change in a positive direction.

In one study, researchers videoed people bowling and then showed them the playback while pointing out either the mistakes they made or the things they did correctly; people improved much more with the positive feedback than with the negative.

Other studies have shown that parents of tough kids improve their parenting when their children’s positive actions are pointed out, and that people can be trained to change actions and behaviors with nothing but positive feedback.

There is a growing movement of consultants using “Appreciative Inquiry” to help businesses and organizations solve long-standing problems and develop new strategies. Those of us who have practiced these approaches with organizations and with individuals are struggling for a descriptive label to identify positive approaches. “Appreciative Coaching” is a possibility as is “Positive Coaching.”

There is another group of us who wants to be sure that “Strength Based Coaching” is properly placed with the other positive approaches. Recognizing and building on strengths is a pivotal aspect of many approaches.

The bottom line is to be selective, choose to work with someone who appreciates your strengths and will reflect the most positive aspects of you living your life well. Be certain your coach gives at least 3 to 1 positive to negative feedback and holds a vision of a brighter future that builds on your strengths.

Is this a Pollyanna approach? No, it just focuses on where you want to head, not where you tripped.

For more information call Jay Livingston at 978-446-9600, email me at or visit my website at