"We all need affirmation. It's a need that begins early and continues throughout life. We need to hear that who we are and what we can do are valued by others," writes Robert Furey, who has been a psychotherapist for 25 years and a columnist for the St. Louis Review for 11 years. He is convinced that commending another person's gifts, virtues, or special qualities is an art that can be learned and refined over the years through practice. He is right, and anyone who is honest with him or herself knows that we all yearn for this kind of affirmation. Sadly enough, many grow up without proper encouragement and withdraw inside or turn violent. One sign of the growing incivility in today's world is that few people practice affirmation. Most claim to be too busy but the real reason is that they take the easy path of focusing all of their energy and attention on their own egotistical needs and desires, so there is nothing left for others.

"The art of affirmation is more than a set of skills," Furey explains. "It must become a lifestyle, a lifestyle that begins with a decision and a commitment to look for the best in others. It is not always easy to learn this art. There are reasons people who want to see the best in others cannot. Still, the hope of finding human goodness never dies. It is a drive too resilient to be destroyed." Part of the process of encouraging others is having a warm heart. Gratitude is also part of it. People who receive inadequate affirmation are troubled by fearfulness, low self-esteem, addiction, undeveloped talents, and approval seeking behaviors.

Furey also deals with the fact that some people feel uncomfortable when they are singled out for praise or admiration. He suggests that we remember the positive emotions that surged through us when we were affirmed and not give in to the myth that people cannot handle it. The author lists some positives that come from being affirmed by others: improved self-esteem, greater confidence, increased courage, a greater willingness to risk, the development of talents, a clearer sense of self, and a stronger connection between people. People of all ages need to know they are appreciated for who they are and what they are doing.