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2 Stars and a Wish

How can you bring up a touchy subject with a friend, a family member or a colleague without it being awkward or overly critical?


Sometime ago, I was working with a primary school headteacher who was segueing into semi retirement. As an aside in one of our conversations, she told me about a tool that she (and many other teachers) used to get the most out of her tiny pupils. She called it Two Stars and a Wish.


The basic premise was that when she wanted to encourage them to do something to improve their behaviour, she would start out by telling them two things that she liked that they were doing. Once she had given them these two pieces of praise, then she would add ‘the wish’, about the behaviour that she wanted them to adopt.


The example she gave me was if a child had untidy writing, rather than just scolding them or telling them to practice, she would say something like:


"I really like your stories” (Star one), “and your characters are funny” (Star 2) “but I wish I could read your writing as I could enjoy your stories more.” (The wish.)


This isn’t just useful for working with the little ones though. This practice of two positive comments and a constructive comment can be used in many settings. Do you need to have a ‘difficult’ conversation with your website designer? With your framer? With your gallery? With a colleague in a group show?


With all these conversations, you can put people into a positive state of mind, where their work is acknowledged (which we all like) and then suggest, constructively, what could make things better. (You don’t need to use the actual language of a “wish”.)


For example, if you are putting on an exhibition with a regular group of artists, and one of them is always later delivering their work, rather than saying, “You are always late, can you please make sure to get it here on time”, you could try:


“I am so pleased your work is going to be in the show” (Star 1), “You are always so active in getting people along to the private view” (Star 2) “I would be so helpful to me to have your work here in time so we can plan the hang.”


You could even use it in negotiations. Using the example of a web designer, it could be:


“I really appreciate all the work you have put into my website” (Star 1) “and the design is looking brilliant” (star 2). “And if the shop widget could be added in by Friday, that would make it perfect.” (The wish.)


There is also one other place where you could get into the habit of using this. In conversations with yourself. You know those times when you have an internal snarl about not doing things right, making a mess, all that critical stuff that goes through our heads? When you catch yourself doing that, try taking a step back and find the two positives in what you have done - which could be the having a go, the showing up, the taking a chance - and only then think about the one thing which could be improved.

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