To share our sincere praise to someone is the best way to make them like us and listen and adhere to our requests. But delivering the praise has multiple aspects to it, that we are not normally taught. While it is of no need to mention a list of benefits of praising someone, delivering it incorrectly, can backfire badly. So let us look at various aspect of delivering praise.
How to Praise?
Like a fake smile, a fake praise is often easily deciphered by the person who it is addressed to. Even if it works in the short term and you derive benefits, in the long term, you are bound to be caught someday and it may really badly backfire.
Some people are not very used to being praised and often get defensive when we praise.
Generic Praise: “Hey, Looking good !!”
Defender: “It’s nothing. I didn’t even get a hairdo. I look horrible”
Although it is really the ‘defender’s lack of confidence or fishing for more praise is the real problem here. We may be able to avoid it by being specific and personal about the praise.
Specific Praise: “You are looking great in this dress. The colour compliments your skin and makes you face glow”
Disclaimer: This compliment is very contextual and personal. Please be sure the person and occasion of complimenting is appropriate.
Praise Effort over Results:
The contrast in the approach is most vivid while we praise children.
Praising Result: “You did the math homework all by yourself. You are really a smart kid.”
What the child thinks: “To be considered smart, I must do the work without seeking any help from anyone.” and as a result unintentionally jeopardizes his/her learning.
Appreciating Effort: “I like it that you have put the work to understand your math concepts well. If you have any questions on the homework I’d be happy to review it with you. ” If the child did not really had to put in a lot of work to get it done, you may even say “If the homework was too easy for you and you are not learning anything new by working on it, please let me know, I can give you a few more. I know that you love a good challenge.”
The statement emphasizes on the fact that focus here is on learning and getting better rather than outdoing anyone.
When to Praise
Praise must be delivered instantly or at least in the next available opportunity. A delay in giving a deserved praise, may often make the other person feel isolated and not appreciated.
For Eg: “I loved the points in your presentation today. Your research was thorough and deliberate. The client definitely seemed impressed. And so were we. Good Job.”
Most often when we put it off, we either forget or the incident is long over by the time you do remember.
How Not to Praise:
“Finally one finished homework/report in time. Great Job”
Any sarcastic praises injure your long term credibility with the person. This is applicable universally except probably in Britain, where sarcasm seems to be their second language.
“Oh, you took bath and got ready in time. Wonderful Job boy. You are such a sweetheart”
what the boy thinks: “Why is mom making it a big deal as if I never take bath !!”
What you can try instead: An Acknowledgement.
“Thank you for getting ready in time Son. It makes mamma’s day so much easier”
For simple everyday things, acknowledge the effort made by your child, rather than going overboard. This applies to your work as well as, “Thank you for sending the payment by the due date.” etc
If a manager compliments a subordinate on his/her looks rather than on his/her work, it can be deemed inappropriate. If you are in a position of power it may be even be considered as harassment. So make your praises contextual and appropriate.
Women get this a lot. “For a women, you are very bold”
“Considering where you come from, you are very brainy”
You probably totally meant that as a compliment. But I promise you that no one in their right senses is going to take it that way. The insult in the ‘where you come from (which could be a reference to race, sex, ethnicity , geographical area) significantly over powers the compliment. So last time you tried to compliment someone and they walked away huffing and puffing, this is probably what you did.
Don’t mix it with criticism:
If your real intention to praise is only to follow it up with a criticism. This method is called the sandwich feedback and is effectively used in certain places. However, using praise to lower the blow of criticism often backfires in many ways. The feedback received is often not effectively delivered due to the confused messaging.
Bad Example Eg: “You are a very sincere hard working person. But you have been coming late to work lately and I may have to issue a memo if this continues”
Try Instead, Eg: “I notice that you have lately been having difficulties in your in time. Is there anything you want to tell me…”
Praise when you have to praise. Provide feedback when you have to do so. Try not to mix both.
Don’t make it about yourself:
“Your presentation was so good. So confident. If I had to present in front of so many people, I’d have been sweating and shivering. Last time when I had to present my report…”
This moment is not about you. So don’t make it about yourself. Try Instead,
“I loved the way you presented confidently. I have loads to learn from you”
A good praise can further a relationship and bring many desired results if done right. You can start practicing by leaving me a comment or response 🙂