How an expression of support can buoy your culture

Research has found that one encouraging message, even in somewhat vague terms, bolsters self-esteem and breeds greater success. It can be just 19 words long—or as few as six.

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Understanding what “culture” means, however, is a whole other matter.

As a working concept, culture can’t be easily defined or measured. Merriam-Webster offers six definitions (and even named it its Word of the Year in 2014 after it received the highest number of web lookups).

Culture construal seems to run the gamut, from the practical (a “set of living relationships working toward a shared goal”— Daniel Coyle) to the whimsical (“Culture is roughly anything we do and the monkeys don’t”— Lord Raglan). Ask the students and alumni of Texas A&M about their culture, and they’ll tell you it’s downright incomprehensible: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it. From the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.”

So much for a culture of clarity.

No matter what you call it, a positive culture comes down to 19 words:

I am giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know you can reach them.

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