Don’t Be Shy – Let the Compliments Fly

The Transformative Power of Praise

Take a moment to think of people who encouraged you to get where you are today. See their faces? Now thank yourself for accepting their encouragement!

A recent New York Times article by Micaela Marini Higgs titled,“How to Accept a Compliment — Even if It’s From Yourself,” explores how “meaningful praise can measurably boost motivation and performance and can improve your brain’s ability to remember and repeat new skills.” The catch? We’re not wired to give or receive praise! Cited in the article, Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, says, “…our brains are designed to look for problems.”

An exercise we sometimes share in our training is called, “Observation/Compliment.” It addresses what happens to us humans when we’re asked to give and receive praise. One of the rules is that participants are asked to keep their hands at their sides when receiving the compliments. It’s a lot harder than you think because we’re so programmed to deflect compliments like Wonder Woman blocking bullets! So, the next time someone compliments you, let it in and enjoy.

Now, it’s one thing to learn to receive praise, but offering encouragement can be just as big of a game changer.

Offering honest, positive and specific feedback can transform your workplace. How? Because people do more of the things they’re praised for. Let’s be real – we spend more time with our co-workers than we do our families, so why not make an effort to create a positive experience for everyone? The next time you need to give someone input, lead with sharing what they did well. By starting with praise, it shuts their inner critic down and immediately gives their brain that positive boost of the good stuff, leading the way for improvement. Isn’t that what we want for ourselves and our colleagues — and our family members for that matter?

Here are some suggestions on how to offer praise in a way that can help transform your environment at work and at home:

  • Highlight What Went Well: If your team had a rough presentation or meeting, make sure you spend enough time focusing on what went well. In the article, Higgs says, “Small setbacks can have a negative impact three to four times stronger than the triumph of a small win…” So, bring in the positive stuff big-time!
  • Give Constructive Feedback: When you lead with praise, giving necessary constructive feedback tends to be more graciously received and appreciated.
  • Be Consistent: If you’re consistent with offering praise to someone, that person will be more likely to come to you for input and feedback. Remember, you have to offer honest compliments; no blowing smoke!

Encouragement is just so good! It has the power to move you and your colleagues to greatness. Let it flow!

— Rich

Tales from the Field

Tales from the Field

Our tale is a bit after the fact. In 2006, three of our engineers accompanied me to Omaha, NE, for a Graceworks training session that included how to “remove masks,” be conscious of our body language, and improve our ability to connect with our fellow humans. The training included exercises designed to help us get more comfortable in our own skin. Great fun!

Twelve years later, our company president is still exercising in the bathroom before he presents. Are you laughing? It works! Those exercises work miracles for folks who, as introverts, struggle to put themselves in such a vulnerable place – smack dab in front of a room full of strangers. In a Graceworks session, you are given tools to overcome those fears. And, you practice. And, in the case of our president, you do them wherever you can find the space, and you make them a habit.

On the return trip to our central Iowa office, we discussed how we might keep the magic alive and how we could share the benefits of what we’d learned. So, at one of our weekly Brown Bag sessions, we gathered our colleagues and pushed them out of their comfort zones into one of the exercises. We played music. We danced. We wiggled. We shook. And, guess what they did? The same. They hesitated at first, but they did it! We were vulnerable together. Great fun!

One of the unsung benefits of doing this training together is the bond that is built. Share it at “home” and some will never forget that connection. And, the cherry on top? You have great stories to tell!

Terry Lynch
Director of Marketing
FOX Engineering Associates, Inc.
Ames, IA 50010

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