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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

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Positive Regard: Does It Have A Place In Business?

How about when we're out networking?


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 21/07/2021 @ 8:00AM

As you can imagine, I get to hear a lot of people's opinions on what other people do wrong when out and about networking. This including what annoys or irritates them the most, and how they feel about that person ...

Do you accept people 'warts and all'? Do you have positive regard for them?

Do you accept people 'warts and all'? Do you have positive regard for them?


In my own writing and when training networkers, I will also sometimes caricature destructive behaviours to make a point about what works and what is counterproductive when we're networking. It's really easy for this to spill into a character assassination of a particular individual!

This got me thinking back to my nursing days and the concept we were taught called 'Positive Regard'. Anyone who's worked in healthcare knows you meet all sorts of people from every walk of life, and some of those people have done some pretty terrible things, and yet our job was to care for them regardless of this. To paraphrase Oliver Cromwell:

"We were expected to accept them
warts and all!"

When someone was in the acute stage of needing urgent help then it was usually quite easy as you focus on their immediate needs. Where it got harder was when they were recovering and returning to normality. Often the nasty side of their nature would re-emerge. Let's put it this way, saying thank you just wasn't on their agenda.

Maintaining 'positive regard' meant focusing forward rather than into the past and accepting the person in a positive way; for who they were rather than what they had done. It often produced near miracles for people who had an underlying low sense of worth which would normally manifest itself as a "f**k you" attitude.

So I asked myself, does this have relevance to our business relationships and how we interact with other people? I think it does.

The interrelationship between positive regard and feelings of self-worth were first described by Carl Rogers, a humanist psychologist in 1951. He was talking about child development and how it continues to have an impact on adult interactions too, as my nursing experience testifies.

How we think about ourselves, our feeling of self-worth, is of fundamental importance to how well we achieve our goals and ambitions in life and fulfil our potential.

When we feel worthy we have confidence and a positive attitude, we can meet challenges head-on and accept failure and mistakes. We are able to be open and accepting of others.

On the other hand, if our self-worth is low, we tend to be risk-averse, defensive and guarded with other people. We often do not accept that life can be difficult at times, so tend to blame ourselves (or others) when things go wrong.

Rogers believed these feelings were formed when we were small children from our interactions with our parents and significant others, and this continues throughout our entire lives.

How others made us feel; respected, valued, treated with affection and caring and loved. We surmise how others regard us by what they say and do with us and in what context.

Rogers made the big distinction between what he called unconditional positive regard and conditional positive regard:

  • Unconditional positive regard

    I accept, respect and like you, "warts and all", for what you are. This will not change if you make a mistake or do something wrong. As a result, the person has high self-worth and feels free to try things out and make mistakes, even though this may lead to getting it wrong at times.

  • Conditional positive regard

    If you do it the way I think is correct then I will like you. As a result, the person's self-worth diminishes and s/he feels under pressure, may be nervous about getting it wrong and losing your approval. S/he may constantly seek reassurance or retreat and not try anything new.

Imagine this common scenario. The person giving you a referral has completely misunderstood the referral process. You waste your time phoning someone who has no idea who you are and has no need for your services. How do you react? With "what a complete idiot! Timewaster! Game Player!"" or "Thanks for the introduction, but it didn't work out this time". What can we learn from this?"

No tip today just a question for you: What would happen if, in our business and when we're out networking, we shifted from our usual position of offering conditional positive regard to unconditional positive regard?

Let's start to acknowledge that others are different from us, have different levels of knowledge, a different style, screw up sometimes and we still accept and respect them for who they are. Warts and all.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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