The power of praise


    When was the last time you praise someone?  The truth is, you cannot remember it anymore. 

    “Giving praise is much like giving love,” says Irving Feldman.  “The giver is usually the most benefited.  He casts bread upon the waters and often gets back cake.”

    A married couple came to a counselor for advice.  No sooner were they seated that they started speaking simultaneously in a duel of criticisms.  When they finally stopped for lack of breath, the counselor suggested that now they tell each other all the good they see in the other person.  There was a total silence from both.

    Then each was given a pen and a sheet of paper and told to write down something praiseworthy about the other.  Neither of them wrote.  They both sat and stared at the paper.  After what seemed like a long time, the husband started to write something.  At once, the wife also began to write – fast and furiously.

    Finally, the writing stopped.  There was silence again.  The wife pushed her paper over to the watching counselor.  He pushed it back signaling that she was to give it directly to her husband.  She reluctantly shoved the paper half way across the table.  He took it and in turn, slid his paper towards his wife.

    Each began to read.  The counselor watched.  Soon a tear slid down the cheek of the wife. 

    She crumpled the paper in her fist and held it tight.  That proved that she treasured the sudden revelation of good things her husband had expressed about her.  The whole atmosphere of the room changed.  There was no need for anything to be said.  Praise had healed a thousand wounds.

    The husband and wife left the room arm in arm.

    “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” William James reminds. 

    Blaise Pascal agrees: “Vanity is so secure in the heart of man that everyone wants to be admired; even I write this, and you who read this.”

    One day, a field marshal requested an audience with Napoleon, and Napoleon knew what was coming. 

    But as every good leader must, Napoleon agreed to hear him out.  The field marshal brought news of a great victory he had achieved.  He talked for a long time about his accomplishment, piling detail upon detail.

    Napoleon listened closely throughout the entire narration but said nothing.  The officer was disappointed.  He had hoped for a more enthusiastic reception, as well as Napoleon’s congratulations.  Neither was forthcoming.

    Summing up, the field marshal repeated much of what he had already stated.  As the officer rambled on, Napoleon continued to listen politely, and the marshal interpreted this as encouragement.  Surely, he thought, Napoleon will now give me the praise I so richly deserve.

    When the field marshal finally stopped talking, Napoleon asked him one question, “What did you do the next day?”

    The field marshal was speechless.  But the lesson was not lost on him.  From then on, the officer understood that he should never rest on his laurels.   So he left it to others to bestow the praise.

    If you have the opportunity, praise someone.  You will never know what will happen to the person whom you have praised.  A business man tells this story on himself:

    I failed in grade three and this demoralized me so much that even in high school I stayed near the bottom of the class.  Then, one day, something happened which changed all this.  During my second year in high school, we had a class dance and the teacher said she was bringing along her sister, who was also middle-aged.

    When the two ladies arrived at the dance, the first thing our teacher did was pick me out of the crowd and bring her sister over to me.

     She put her hand on my shoulder and said to her sister, “My dear sister, I want you to meet this student first; he has the nicest smile in the class.” 

    My teacher did not say, “Here is my student: he can’t read; he can’t recite; he can’t do anything.”  Instead, she said, “He has the nicest smile in the class.”

    I left that dance a lot taller and with more self-confidence than I had ever had in my life.  Since that time, I have earned a Master’s degree, been a teacher and a business man and now having a company of my own.

    But it all started at that dance class in high school when my teacher showed me that I had something of value, something to give to others.  My self-respect was restored.

    All of us hunger for a word of praise.  American author Mark Twain is credited with saying, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”

    If you happen to be the head of a company or someone who hold a higher position, why don’t you praise your subordinates – if they deserve such recognition?  “Some people will work harder for praise than even money,” said L. Perry Wilbur.  “Those workers in your group doing good work should be occasionally praised.  It’s good sense and good courtesy. 

    Many effective employees, who know they’re doing good work, expect to be recognized and appreciated. 

    When deserved, be sure to praise your team members individually or before the group. They’ll appreciate your appreciation, and most of them will work all the harder for you.”

    If you’re a parent, recognize your children too.  But George W. Crane advises, “When you praise a child, focus on his accomplishments rather than on himself.  Thus, you encourage good works instead of mere egotism.”

    To make your praise worthy, don’t overdo it.  “An overdose of praise is like 10 lumps of sugar in coffee; only a very few people can swallow it,” Emily Post said.  And if that person doesn’t deserve praise, don’t do it.  “Praise undeserved,” someone once said, “is poison in disguise.”


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