Moving From Me To We BlogMoving From Me To We Blog

The Velcro Effect of Praise and Insults

“.. .she pointed the audience to people who were great examples of living their dreams with a very motivating and empowering attitude,” Heather Parlato wrote about Colleen Wainwright.

Praising individuals in the audience is especially helpful when facing a tough crowd as I described in a comment here. Bill Clinton, at his best, is a master at giving praise as Sean Stephenson suggests, dubbing his approach “the carwash phenomenon.”

Conversely, criticizing others leaves an indelible stain on one’s reputation in this increasingly connected world. When you throw mud you get dirty.

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 as Colleen and Heather did. The multiplying power of praise happens as people tell others about such incidents, as I am in this post.

Tip: 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:

1. Shine a spotlight on someone in unexpected yet relevant times and places.  After witnessing such an experience at Harrods in London Gretchen Rubin wrote about it thus shining a priceless spotlight on the soul of the store.

2. As a variation of  1. put your sticky note of praise in a place where it will be seen by that that person – and by others who are important to them.

3.  Give a present to that special person in front of people from a different part of their life than the part you share.

Example: The Friday night after Juan worked through the weekend to fix a problem at the start-up where he worked he went to his bike club’s monthly dinner. With prior agreement from the club, his boss, the start-up founder, came in the door, was introduced to everyone by the club president and gave Juan a gift coupon to his favorite bike store, describing how Juan’s astute, hard work the past weekend  saved the fledgling firm’s reputation.

4.  Start with marbles. Mike Rogers heard of a CEO who began practicing giving praise by placing five marbles in his right pocket each morning. Each time he complimented someone, he moved one marble to his left pocket. By the end of each day he planned to move all the marbles.  After awhile he no longer needed to use the marbles.

5. Look for times you can reinforce someone’s confidence and belief in their talents and character with your variation of two phrases suggested by Rich DeVos (who, unfortunately, is also ardent in his criticism):

• “I’m Proud of You.”   • “I Believe in You.”

6. As the most cost-effective and satisfying way to attract more customers, provide multiple ways your customers can praise what they most like about your business or other organization.  Andy Sernovitz offers true stories as examples.

7. Even in asking permission you influence whether someone  is likely to criticize or praise you to others. Here’s an example: A Catholic priest was transferred to a new parish. He approached his superior and asked, “Would you mind if I smoked while praying?”  Not too surprisingly, he was turned down.

You can change the meaning and the outcome of what you say by how you say it. Set the stage for what someone is about to hear from you. Do this by choosing the order in which you say something. That creates the context in which the listener hears the intention behind your words.  The priest, for example, might have secured permission – and a positive first impression –  if he’d made his request this way, “Would you mind if I prayed while I am smoking?”

The effect of praise is so potent that even false flattery sways us more than we think.

When you show you care as you praise others you can transform them and yourself as you can see in this captivating fable Validation: Free Parking.

Perhaps the heaviest thing to carry is a grudge and the shortest distance between two people is a compliment. Praise what you want to flourish in others.

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  1. Posted May 7, 2010 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I *love* that marble idea! What a great way to get in the habit of doing something good (and stay in it, even when things get hectic).

    Thank you for pointing to Heather’s piece, and by extension, to me. It’s nice to be mentioned, but it’s really nice to be mentioned in a post by a person who so perfectly models the very behavior she’s describing. You’re the champeen, Kare!

  2. Michael Yanakiev
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Kare! These models of behavior are so true. They can easily be associated with a very special person – to all of us – Kare Anderson! A great poetess is standing next to her. What can I say? Still , apart from everything aren’t
    we overworking ourselves ? How can we cope with an information neurosis,that can catch up with us soon ? Aren’t things transparent and obvious to a great extend to all that are mindful ? I don’t have the answers but
    am still aware , how easily one can loose the sense of measure. At least, our Western civilization.”Would you mind if I prayed while I am smoking ?”

  3. Michael Yanakiev
    Posted May 8, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Kare,..I was post – reflecting on what you have been writing lately,and here came something I liked and would like to share:
    Three Friends
    There were three friends
    Discussing life.
    one said:
    “Can men live together
    And know nothing of it ?
    Work together
    And produce nothing ?
    Can they fly around in space
    And forget to exist
    World without end ?”
    The three friends looked at each other
    And burst out laughing.
    They had no explanation.
    Thus they were better friends than before.

  4. Steve
    Posted May 19, 2010 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Great to read posts like this that help me focus on the positive.

    There’s a complement called the implied complement that’s effective because it causes the receiver to make the connection. Here’s an example:

    I love working with people who are creative, so I’m thrilled to be working with you on this project.

  5. Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    Steve – Perhaps you mean compliment?
    Collaboration can be more difficult AND more valuable when partnering with people with complementary talents.
    With different talents we are more likely to feel friction because the other person is not acting right – like us :’)

    Yet recognizing that likelihood, when difference pop up and may turn to disagreement, one can look to the increased value in partnering with that person and find a way to reach deeper understanding of that person… possibly by complimenting
    that person on their strength/greatest talent and expressing gratefulness that “our different talents” make it worth the effort to learn from them to accomplish something greater together than we can on our own.

  6. Posted May 19, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Michael – Thank you
    1. Re overworking – see Tony’s helpful new book The Energy Project (Work hard. Pause. Repeat)
    2. Even with mindfulness we are different people and thus, even in times of good will, we will see the situation from a different perspective. That’s where the troubles and joy can happen… when we find ways to see the other’s perspective, assure them they feel heard, and stick in the conversation to find the way forward.

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