"If You See Something, Say Something" was written by Allen Kay the day after the 9/11 terrorist attack. As CEO of the Manhattan advertising agency Korey Kay & Partners, Mr. Kay said he wanted to do something positive that might help prevent another tragedy.
He shared the concept of doing a safety campaign with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and soon the MTA was spending $2-3 million a year putting the slogan on posters and placards in subway cars, buses and trains as well as radio and TV ads.
The idea was extremely successful. In 2002, there were 814 reports of potential problems in New York. In 2006, that number grew to 37,614.
The Department of Homeland Security and many cities around the world adopted the safety sentence and encouraged people in their local communities to be more aware of suspicious activity and reverse the see-something-do-nothing syndrome.
However, 18 years later, the clear and simple call to action has been criticized for fueling paranoia and fear. One group even created an alternative slogan..."If You Fear Something, You'll See Something," with the goal of reminding us we all need to be vigilant about our unconscious bias and fear of people who look and act different than we do.
The story about the origin and unintended consequence of..."See Something Say Something" got me thinking about interpreting that sentence differently. I started to imagine the impact we could have on people if we used that slogan to remind us to see and say something positive about the people in our workplace, family and community.
I know life is difficult and no amount of optimism can wipe away the challenges we face when trying to bring out the best in the people we work with, live with and serve. Human beings have always and will always make mistakes and behave in ways we don't like from time to time.
I also know one of our greatest powers is the ability to choose where we direct our attention. Instead of concentrating on what others aren't doing well, we can look for the positive in everyone and increase the number of compliments we give during the day.
Positive and sincere praise communicates..."I noticed, valued and cared enough about you to make a comment." It also conveys you have respect, gratitude and appreciation for the other person.
When we give someone positive feedback, those people will not only feel better, they will be inspired to keep taking positive action. (Remember, what gets rewarded gets repeated.)
At a time when so many people feel alone and disconnected, even when surrounded by co-workers, family or friends, a simple and sincere compliment can make a huge difference in the quality of someone's day. Showing your appreciation can also inspire others to say something positive to the people around them.
There is no need for the top 10 tips and tricks of giving compliments. All we have to do is slow down and notice what someone is doing well and genuinely share how their actions made us feel.
Mark Twain once wrote, "I can live for two months on a good compliment."
If you think some people you know might agree with Mr. Twain and you're ready to reverse the see-something-do-nothing syndrome when it comes to complimenting the people in your world, start looking for opportunities to brighten someone's day. Take advantage of every chance to express your feelings of gratitude and appreciation to the people you interact with today. Then continue, one day at a time, until this activity becomes a habit.
As you increase the number of times you use your words to light fires in the people around you, you'll find your days keep getting brighter as well.