Praise is an underutilized tool in two main areas of life. Our close relationships and work colleagues.
I can’t tell you how often I praise someone at work and they usually say something to dismiss my compliment.
I noticed there are usually a few common reactions to praise:
- “It’s my job.”
- “Ahh, it was nothing.”
- “Thank you, that’s nice of you to say.”
Which one do you use the most?
They often blow it off or try to downplay the praise. It’s funny because I don’t take praise very well, but I love it. I’ve gotten better at accepting appreciation from others, but I still have a long way to go.
I had an amazing boss who would write down his praise throughout the week to his employees. Then he would pick a few employees and send them a note on Thursday afternoons. He would write it down because by the time Thursday came around he wouldn’t be able to remember who and what as well as the details. This was so smart and I now do the same thing.
The next step is to understand how people like to be appreciated. It helps to see how they take praise and just flat out ask them.
It’s important to understand how people like to be appreciated. Too often we simply don’t ask them. We need to change this social norm.
If you are a leader of any kind at work or at home. The power of appreciation is strong when done well. It's what creates legendary leadership.
A study where the participants’ brains were scanned using an MRI machine, researchers found out that compliments led to an activation in the reward part of their brains. A compliment is similar to receiving a gift.
I have a friend who is constantly complimenting me, but it feels just a bit off. The compliments were always very generic. She also does it so much that it has lost its power on me. I still enjoy hanging out with her and I realize it’s just her personality to compliment people, but sometimes I do roll my eyes at it. It doesn’t have the same power as if she tried a little harder.
Try this technique next time you compliment someone:
- Sincere - Do they believe that you mean it?
- Appropriate - Are you fully aware of the situation and the person you are talking with? How do you let them know that you appreciate them?
- Specific - Do they understand what they did well and why it mattered to you?
Read the Improve Your Relationships article to dig a little deeper into these three techniques.
If you compliment someone at the wrong time or too often, it’s not appropriate. Every person is different, so that’s why it’s important to ask how they like to be appreciated. It will make it easier to understand what works for them.
You might want to reach out to an old friend and just tell them how much you appreciated your friendship over the years. However you start reaching out I suggest you have a system. Revisit the previous email if you want to dive deeper into your system or schedule a 15 minute call with me.
A professor at Kent University did a study on gratitude letters. It showed how much of an emotional boost it gave to the person writing the letters.
“As they wrote, up to three (gratitude) letters, results showed increasing benefits. The more letter writing people did, the more they improved significantly on happiness and life satisfaction. The new and potentially important finding is that depressive symptoms decreased. By writing these letters – 15 to 20 minutes each, once a week for three weeks to different people – well-being increased significantly.” Steve Toepfer
Letters are also a great way to practice creating a message that hits the mark. Even if you don’t send it, just the practice of writing it can really help give you an emotional boost.
Whether you are writing a message to a friend or an employee it will boost your happiness and theirs as well. It does take effort and it’s not an easy habit to build, but if you do you’ll build stronger relationships in all parts of your life.
Can you write a letter to someone that has had a positive influence on your career?
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