‘Tis the season – the season for overeating, celebrating and gathering. It’s also the season of giving praise, whether to your mother-in-law (ok, to my mother-in-law) for her delectable stuffed cabbage, or to your children for decorating the sukkah with such creative flair, and to God – for His gifts, forgiveness, and patience with us.
- Personally. The Talmud tells us, “You may tell part of a person’s praises to him or her directly.” If you are the one who has witnessed or benefitted from what someone else has done, you should be the one to give the compliment. This is not something you should delegate to someone else. Furthermore, if you can find any way possible and within reason to share the feedback in person, do so. If you can’t do it in person, then get as close to “in person” as you can. Phone is better than email, email is better than a text message, and a text message is better than nothing, I guess. All that being said, a handwritten note (remember those?) is a wonderful way to share positive feedback that never goes out of style. Use it in addition to all of the above.
- Regularly. Regularly doesn’t mean “Wednesday is Praise Day.” Nor does it mean all the time. Regular praise means that it is a healthy and consistent part of your interpersonal relationships. The people in your work and life can and should come to expect it – which is not the same as being dependent upon it, or feeling entitled to it.
- ·Assertively. If you’ve ever heard someone say “What, this old thing?” when someone offered you positive feedback on your outfit or your sales pitch, then you realized you had two choices: you could drop the matter altogether or you could do your best to insist that someone take the praise you have given. Of course, if you’ve ever said your own version of “What, this old thing?” then you’ve got mud on your hands. Giving genuine praise feels good. When you reject the praise, you reject the person giving it. It’s like handing back a present that someone has just given to you. That feels bad for everyone. Accepting praise is a positive sign of self-acceptance. Accepting praise establishes and develops interpersonal relationships because it requires an exchange of ideas and opinions. Accepting praise does not mean that you’re done growing or improving – it simply means that you recognize that someone saw something in you worth acknowledging, and perhaps repeating.
- Immediately. In her book, The Leader as a Mentsch: Become the Kind of Person that Others Want to Follow, author Bruna Martinuzzi writes: “Praise has a limited "best before" date. Don’t delay its expression or wait until performance review time – when you see something that is worthy of praising, do so promptly after the event.” It’s not better saved for your annual romantic vacation, or for your speech at your daughter’s bat mitzvah. When you give praise and encouragement in a prompt and timely manner, you are more likely to remember and convey the exact details of what worked well and why – and the more specifics that you can share, the more likely you are to have that positive behavior repeated. You got something nice to say? Don’t save it. Life is short, and so are our memories.
- Sincerely. Consider the following: “Well done — for you.”“Excellent job – so far.” “That was terrific! Why didn’t you do it like this before? (or Can’t you do it this way all the time?)”
- Explicitly. No, this doesn’t mean using four-letter words in your praise. It means being as clear and specific as you can in giving positive feedback and encouragement. It also means giving praise in the way in which the recipient is most likely to value it. When you give praise, make sure that it is custom-fit for the wearer, not the bearer.