“Wow, I loved your presentation.”
“I like what you did yesterday.”
“By the way, have you lost some weight?”
Are these praise statements motivational? Well… not necessarily.
It’s well known how motivating praise can be. Praise is one of the most powerful forms of communication, and when done right, it can do just wonders. Praise affects the ego, ego affects confidence, and confidence affects performance.
However, like anything, if it’s powerful, it’s also dangerous. Praise can be demotivating or even demoralizing, especially if it misses some of the essential points on how to praise.
Here are 4 main facts to remember when praising someone:
Sincerity: Let your praise be genuine. If you don’t wholeheartedly mean it, it will certainly show. If you’re not sincere, your praise overtime becomes useless and pointless, people may even start to resent it. Insincere praise is dangerous for many reasons. Insincere praise loses credibility not only that one time, that same praise may lose credibility every time, and the credibility of the person giving the praise may become on the line as well. In addition, insincere praise may affect the self-esteem of the person you’re praising as it may be seen undermining their ability to see what’s “praisable” and what’s not.
When praise is not genuine, people may start confusing politeness with praise. “Are you truly praising me or are you just being polite?”. When thanked for your praise, mean it in your answer as well by saying that it was well deserved. Let your body language mean it too.
Specificity: Specificity starts with using the name of the person to be praised, then the behavior itself. Let praise be precise to what behavior or action it specifically relates to, otherwise in the mind of the recipient the praise could be relating to one thing while you may be trying to praise something else. Another advantage of making the praise specific to what it relates to, is that it not only reinforces the positive behavior, but also it makes it clear for others what the praised behavior was and thus promotes it. Also, specificity reinforces the first point of sincerity. Making it more precise makes it more genuine.
Spontaneity: The effect of praise is much more poignant when the behavior to be praised is still fresh, and especially when this praise is expected by the recipient right then and there. Strike the iron while the iron is still hot. The right praise at the right time adds to the effectiveness of the previous two points of Sincerity and Specificity.
Publicity: Make your praise public; “Praise in public and criticize in private”. Praise in public helps a person’s self-esteem. Praise in public helps promote good behavior by sharing it with others. Consequently, praising becomes a form of coaching. Didn’t Ken Blanchard define coaching as “Catching someone doing something right”? Leadership behavior is to follow this form of coaching with a form of action; in other words, let the coachee become a coach of that particular behavior to others. Give that person an assignment where he/she will re-use that commendable behavior.
There is also advanced praise. Advanced praise is when we go a step further, analyze the behavior, and try to praise the real character or trait behind it.
Speaking of praise, it’s worth mentioning the sandwich technique where you sandwich a particular criticism with two layers of praise. In that situation, be careful not to overdo the praise to the extent it overrides the critique that was supposed to be the ‘meat” of the sandwich.
Finally, the beauty of praise is that we are surrounded with endless opportunities to use it every day in almost every context; at home, work, or society. Lets use it often!