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Sparkplug Scutaro: the Velcro Effect of Insults and Praise

“He’s such a good, smart player and a clutch player,” said S.F. Giants manager, Bruce Bochy, in describing Marco Scutaro after last night’s pennant-winning game in the soggy rain here in S.F. What part of that praise is most memorable?  Like Scutaro’s nickname, Sparkplug, “clutch” is the most specific and thus the sticky part of that quote.

Chris Brogan comes to mind. Because he frequently reminds readers to “be human” I have long admired this social media expert, and how he praises others. Even though my introverted side usually comes out at large conferences, I mustered up courage to approach him, moments before he was to speak, and when he was busily working on his smart phone. I said nothing more profound than that I’d long admired him for walking his talk in shining a spotlight on others’ acts of kindness, especially when conducted in unexpected ways. He looked warmly at me, asked my name and thanked me.

I then settled into my seat some ten rows back. Soon he was introduced and started his talk then stopped, mid-sentence, came off the stage and over to my side of the room to say something like, “I’m sorry. I didn’t give you my full attention moments ago, Kare. And I do now remember reading your ideas about connecting with others. Thank you for coming up to talk with me earlier.” The audience looked momentarily startled then most smiled. Some clapped as I turned beet red and he returned to the stage to continue his talk.

Like Sean Stephenson, when unexpectedly acknowledged by President Clinton in a Rose Garden gathering, I will probably remember that praise for the rest of my life.

The Cosmic Carwash Phenomenon

Praising individuals in the audience is especially helpful when facing a tough crowd. Bill Clinton, at his best, is a master of deep eye contact and giving praise, as  Stephenson describes, dubbing Clinton’s approach the car wash phenomenon: “It was as if President Clinton, like a cosmic car wash, had magically washed away their scowls and replaced them with expressions of pure relaxation.” Such actions are emblematic of the Velcro power of praising people in front of others. We can all make situations more meaningful for us and others by adopting variations of what Chris Brogan did that day.

We Mark Ourselves by the Stains of Our Critical Remarks and Actions

Conversely, criticizing others leaves an indelible stain on one’s reputation, especially in this increasingly connected world. As Adlai Stevenson once said, “When you throw mud you get dirty.” Just as our primitive “fight or flight” brain reacts faster, more intensely and longer to negative actions than positive, even the unintentional appearance of criticism lasts longer than praise.  If, for example, someone see five things they like in what you say or do when first meeting you and then feels criticized, just once, that negative moment will be the one most indelibly remembered and will most affect their future behavior towards you.

Yet, ironically one of the easiest ways to be seen in a positive light is by shining a spotlight on a remarkable side in someone else. The multiplying power of praise happens as people tell others about such incidents, as I am in this post.

Hint: Praise individuals for praising others.  This is a vivid, credible and becoming approach to bringing out the best in all of us. Heck, even waiters who compliment customers get three percent bigger tips, on average.

Try some of these ways to magnify the power of your praise….over at my Forbes column.

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