The power of praise!
It seems that as we increase in age we decrease in the praise we both give and are comfortable receiving.
I was walking into my son’s school one morning just before the start of the day and this young lady, about 6 years old, wandered up the street and started walking in beside me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see her very purposefully looking me up and down and then I glanced down at her, a tad amused at her very direct and obvious scrutiny.
She then very directly looked at me and very confidently gave me the gift of some praise, she said, “Your dress is gorgeous, you look so beautiful!” Now I didn’t throw the compliment back at her, I took it gracefully and gratefully and thanked her for saying so. And of course, it made me smile and feel good. And then I started thinking about the bigger gift in that compliment which is this…
When we are five or six we still say exactly what we feel… we feel it in our heart and it just comes straight out of our mouths and we share it with the world and the people in it. However, as adults what often happens is we feel the praise/compliment in our hearts and then it goes straight up to our heads and we analyse it first. It may go something like this… “well she looks nice but I am not going to say anything, I mean I don’t even know her and if I say something she might think I am kind of weird or maybe she will think I am coming on to her or something”… or… “well she looks nice and I wish I had a nice dress like that, in fact I wish I looked half as good as her and I am sure I don’t, and she makes me feel insecure about myself so I am not saying anything to her, she will get enough compliments…”
And so we say nothing! There is a great gift for others and also for ourselves when we share what is in our heart before we run it through our heads and through the lens of our own insecurities. And we will notice that as we give the gift of praise freely we will invite more of the same into our world and that is how we all can make a difference.
I feel so grateful to receive the most beautiful soul filling messages of praise, gratitude and affirmation of my ‘making a difference’ in the world, in my small circle of influence… never underestimate the power of praise.
We even see a ‘holding back on it’ on social media like Facebook… “Na, I am not ‘liking’ that post, she gets enough likes… I mean we don’t want her to get a big head”…really? I had a conversation with my 17 year old son and he expressed that attitude, that they hold back on giving ‘likes’ to people that already have a lot, and instead gave it to the ones that didn’t. It is as if we only have a certain amount of ‘likes’, smiles and compliments to give out in a certain day and that the Tall Poppy syndrome demands that we give it to the underdog and not the one achieving success… weird huh?
When we go deeper we will realise that when we hold back on praise, it is saying something about us and our own insecurities. That should be a flag for us to say to ourselves, “What does this say about me?”
Life will keep us grounded all on its own with grief, challenges and struggles… our job is to lift each other up… not just for the sake of it. I do see a movement towards setting up processes and systems to dish out positive affirmation or ribbons and winning medals, just because. That is not real, genuine praise. So, I am not talking about giving out praise just for the sake of it and or when it is not deserved or not how you truly feel. We often in fact, do more harm because the person receiving it will know that it is either not deserved, not true or fair.
So when somebody has made a difference, or you notice something nice about somebody, please let them know. It just may be the most important message they get that day and sometimes you will never know the difference you made in that person’s life that day. Don’t underestimate the ripple effect, the power of praise doesn’t just affect the person you have directly given it too but that person will also go on and make a positive impact on the people they affect that day too.
As leaders and managers, never hold back on letting somebody know when they are doing a great job. Money enters their bank accounts but praise enters their hearts and surely we want people working with passion – not just for the money.
I hear people saying all the time that they want to make a difference, well making a difference every day is so much easier than we think!