Praising others doesn’t come naturally to me. Accepting praise even less so.
To deconstruct that thought:
- Nature (i.e. my personality): I don’t take much time to celebrate. After a job well done, it’s onwards and upwards.
- Nurture (i.e. my upbringing): Having a high bar, getting good grades, and bettering myself was expected, which drove a strong sense of independence early on.
For some twenty-odd years, I didn’t think much about it. But as I’ve wisened up a bit, I’ve come to appreciate the power of praise across all facets of life, and one of my biggest goals is to learn how to channel that power.
But first, I’d be remiss if I didn’t clarify that praise is only one ingredient of a healthy relationship, and it’s no silver bullet. The way I see it:
Acknowledgement -> Praise -> Validation
In some cases, acknowledgement is the key. Nothing feels worse than investing immense time and energy and not being recognized for it. In other cases, validation is the key. Empty praise is worse than no praise at all.
Giving praise professionally
As an early employee, product manager, and people manager, I love supporting and empowering the team. Deflecting credit comes easy to me, but openly giving credit has always been awkward. Celebrating the wins. Affirming and motivating. It’s a muscle I believe can be strengthened, and I try to approach the challenge with empathy. If I’m the kind of person that doesn’t need validation, but I distinctly remember the endorphin rush from the last time I was truly praised, I can only imagine how others may desire or be fueled by even a “great job”.
Giving praise personally
Early on in our relationship, my partner and I took the love language test. While I don’t recall the exact results ranking, I know that words of affirmation was higher on her list than mine. And it was a stark reminder that with my closest friends and family, I don’t openly appreciate their love and support nearly as much I should. It’s always been a regretful oversight on my part and one I want to rectify. A couple years ago, I started writing down five things I’m grateful for every month — one small step in the right direction.
A colleague once complimented me effusively on a project, to which I replied with something like, “Thanks, it was nothing. It really wasn’t bad at all.”
I’ll never forget what he said next.
“Vincent, I know this was incredibly stressful and you worked your ass off. Don’t diminish what you accomplished — a compliment is really the least I could do.”
From that point on, I resolved to just say “Thanks — I really appreciate that.”
To this day, I suck at it. I always get the immediate impulse to deflect the praise, and too often I’ll still say something unnecessary. But I’m eternally grateful for the praise and sound advice.