• Aces! (about praise)

    by  • May 4, 2015 • Career Transition and Management • 0 Comments

    There is a lot of focus on dealing with difficult words. There isn’t enough about kind words. Shame, because we are bad at both giving and receiving praise.

    There is a lot of focus on dealing with difficult words. There isn’t enough about kind words. Shame, because we are bad at both giving and receiving praise.

    There is a lot of talk about self-limiting beliefs. There is a lot of talk about criticism, negative and positive and constructive. There is a lot of talk about having difficult conversations.

    There is, however, very little talk about praise. There is some, but nowhere near enough as there is about the bad stuff.

    See, but praise is critical. Our spirits, our motivation, our ability to withstand difficulties – it feeds on this stuff. Some people need more of it than others, but let’s be clear: everyone of us likes being recognised.

    And the easiest, simplest and most meaningful way to be recognise and to be praised.

    The makings of a good compliment

    Rather than telling you what you probably already know about being specific, and genuine, and honest, and immediate, you can read about it on HBR and Inc. Mag and MindTools.

    What I would like to add to all those wonderful posts is that sometimes the best praise is off the cuff, in a moment when we’re all edorphined on success or pumped up with a sense of comradery, having worked with great team.

    Sometimes, praise shouldn’t be engineered and shouldn’t be any of the above. It can be being there with the people who’ve helped you achieve something and you recognising them for it.

    Meaningful and scarce/little and often

    In some ways, praising is like food.

    Sometimes you need to go all out and make it into the structured, well thought, well planned 5 course meal that it can be.

    Sometimes you need to graze on praise – a little and often.

    I’ve found that individuals tend to move around on this spectrum a lot too. So just because someone was a grazer yesterday, that makes them a grazer forever more.

    And if we’re on food and praise – please make your praise real. Don’t come up with two soggy pieces of praise to make a feedback sandwich (we hate those).

    So as a praise giver, feel free to move around on this spectrum as well.

    Get as good as you give

    The most important thing about praise is that we (a very broad-brushed, generalised “we”) tend to suck at receiving it.

    There is an amazingly funny (and incredibly inappropriate to share in this forum) Amy Schumer sketch about compliments and how bad we are at accepting them. In it, she encapsulates how much easier it is to downplay our achievement or be self-deprecating than risk appearing self-satisfied or arrogant.

    I honestly don’t know when this became the social norm, but I hereby stand against it.

    Accepting a compliment doesn’t make you self-satisfied, doesn’t make you arrogant, or vain or superior. It makes you a human being who is acknowledged for achieving something.

    And if someone has noticed it, and is taking the time to acknowledge you for it, than be kind in return and say “Thank you”.

    Praise challenge!

    You have a week. Let’s make it simple.

    One: Give three honest, off the cuff, endorphined bits of praise.

    Two: Give one bit of structured, data-backed praise.

    Three: Every time someone gives you some positive feedback this week, just say “Thank you”. (Okay. You can smile too.)


    (If you want to find that Amy Schumer sketch, go to YouTube and search “inside amy schumer compliments”. Just don’t watch it at work or in front of children, and don’t say it was me who told you about it. 😀 )


    Tell us how you got on! How’s praising working for you?

    If you fancy, we still have an email address – we’d love for you to use it.

    Oh! — feel free to tweet us!


    Photo credit to ctechs via sxc.hu.

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