When I was in kindergarten, I was known as the “Gold Star Princess.” I had an insatiable need to win the teacher’s approval and get the most gold stars in the class. I craved the attention, credit, praise and recognition that came with taking home my artwork or my ABCs and showing my mom the shiny affirmations of my efforts.
While that incessant craving for praise melts away like so much baby fat, it’s still nice to hear you’ve done a good job. If you’re like most people, you hear lots of sound and fury when something isn’t right but seldom do any of us get the recognition we deserve for all of the things we do.
What’s worse, most of us don’t know how to give praise to someone else in a way that truly makes them feel special. So here is a basic primer on how to say “Great job.”
First, some of the best praise is done when the person isn’t even there. Praise someone’s efforts highly to several people, and it won’t take long for it to get back around to them. “I ran into Kyle the other day, and he just couldn’t say enough about how you handled the Reynolds situation. He said you’re the best negotiator he’s ever worked with.”
Sounds kinda nice, huh? Likewise, if you hear praise, be sure to pass it on to the “praisee.”
It helps when you’re very specific in your praise. “Great golf tournament, Patricia!” isn’t nearly as satisfying as “Wow! You had a fantastic turnout on Saturday! And those hole signs were so innovative. How did you get so many door prizes donated? You must know every business in town.”
People who head committees or pull off special events get noticed when the big job is over. But not everybody has the opportunity to do noticeable things. Everyday praise for everyday work is appreciated, too. Making sure all the work is done on time, on budget and effectively are often unappreciated. Let people know you notice their effort. “You know, you haven’t missed a staff meeting all year or been late with a report once.”
What’s the worst “praise offense” you can make? Gushing over the person’s success and asking for a favor at the same time. My mother used to call that a “back-handed compliment.” It comes across as not very sincere and actually can make the person feel like they’re being played. Save the favor for another time.
And finally, try to be original in what you say. I have a great friend who’s constantly and consistently being lauded for her magnificent singing voice. She’s been told since she was a teenager that she’s got a great set of pipes, can really belt out a song and should be a recording star. The compliment that meant the most to her is when a stranger came up to her at a baseball game and told her that her rendition of the National Anthem was so beautiful, it moved her to tears. It was the first time she’d cried over the song in her life. My friend will remember that forever.
The most wonderful thing about praise, is that it not only makes the receiver feel great, it also makes you feel great for having given it. Karma says you get back what you put out to the universe. So spread a little praise around and see what happens. You might end up with your own gold star! Not that you’re craving it or anything.
Dana Dittmar is the executive director of the Sun City Center Area Chamber of Commerce.