How To Give Effective Praise

September 12, 2012 — 34 Comments
How To Give Effective Praise | Joseph Lalonde

Who doesn’t like being praised for a job well done?

No one that I can think of. It gives you that boost of confidence. Puts a little pep in your step. Brings a smile to your face.

If it’s done properly.

Medal of Honor Recipient Giving Speech

Image From Creative Commons

What? Praise can be given ineffectively? Yes, yes it can. When it’s fake praise.

I’m sure you’ve encountered it. I have.

A manager tells you “Good job” but you know they don’t mean it. A friend gives an offbeat “Atta boy. Keep at it” when they don’t even know what you do.

This kind of praise can sting a bit. It feels hollow. It comes across as manipulative.

If you’re sincere, praise is effective.  If you’re insincere, it’s manipulative.
— Zig Ziglar

I know you don’t want to give that kind of manipulative praise. You want to give effective praise. Praise that warms the heart of others.

How can you do this?

To be honest, this is an area that I struggle with. Just ask my wife. She’ll tell you.

But here are some tips and tricks I’ve been trying to implement on giving effective praise.

  • As the Zig Ziglar quote says Be Sincere: People can detect when you’re not being sincere. When you’re giving praise, make sure it’s coming from the heart. It’s honest. It’s what you actually feel.
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  • Praise the person to other people: Share your praise of the person with their coworkers or friends. Build them up and let them know how awesome the person is. People talk and it will get back to the person you were praising. What’s sweeter than hearing your boss, friend, or spouse was talking you up to others? I don’t think there is.
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  • Give praise in public: Similar to the previous tip, praise the person in public. Once again you’re validating the person in front of others. People appreciate this.
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  • Give praise in private: Public praise is great. But private praise can be even more effective. We often overlook this aspect. Telling someone the awesome job they’re doing one on one brings an intimacy to the praise.
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  • Praise often: This is the hardest for me. And yet it is important. People need to be praised frequently or else they’ll look for other ways to get the attention they desire. Look for little things to praise. Are the dishes done? Did they turn in a paper on time? Was a big sale landed? Praise it, praise it, praise it.

Most of all, refer back to point 1. Be sincere in the praise. Otherwise the other tips will be ineffective.

It is simpler and easier to flatter people than to praise them.
— Jean Paul

Question: How do you give effective praise? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

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  • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

    Love this Joseph! The essential message is “find ways, places, and times to praise, praise, praise!”

    “Praise the person to other people”

    Joel Manby tells a story about a letter his boss wrote to his family thanking them for allowing him to work with their father and how awesome he is. 

    Saying thanks or “good job” to the person is one thing…but to the family?!?! That is taking it to an entirely different level.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Great way to break it down Matt. Praising people, in general, is so important yet such a struggle for so many. I know it is for me.

      Sounds like Joel had an amazing boss. He also mentioned that in an interview. Blew my mind. I’m sure Joel was walking with his head held high for many days.

    • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

       Great point Matt.

    • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

      Hey, Matt.  I didn’t see your comment here at first.  Hope you don’t mind, but I threw up a link to your blog post today about Thank You Thursday.

      • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

        Let me think about that one for a second… :)

  • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

    Love the quote at the end. Flattery is easier.

    I think consistency in giving praise is important. Like you said, if we don’t give others attention, the world sure will.

    I think what is also important is being able to receive praise from others. We’ve all met people (or are people) who when they receive praise they dismiss it. Example, “Oh, I don’t sing that well.” “Thanks, but my hair needs cut.” “Thanks, but I could have done better.” and so on.

    I’ve discovered many are uncomfortable with praise because they are not used to it. Therefore, we don’t need to get discouraged if our praise is met with comments like above, instead we need to keep reinforcing the praise.
    If we are the people unable to receive compliments, we need to practice accepting them with grace. Just say “Thank you” if you don’t know what else to say. I’ve also found praying and asking God to help me see myself as HE does, really boosts my confidence!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I think you’ve hit something on the being able to receive praise. It seems like that could come from a false sense of humility, as well. The trouble with this line of response is it creates a barrier for others to give compliments. You deny them enough and people will stop giving out the praise.

      • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

        Very good points. I know I’ve encountered not wanting to give praise because I know it won’t be received well.

        I hadn’t thought about the false sense of humility before, but I can definitely see that! Thanks for the insight.

        • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

           You’re welcome TC. Your comment got me thinking about it and my thoughts went in that direction. Might just be a blog post as a result of that rabbit trail. So thank you!

          • http://tcavey.blogspot.com/ TCAvey

            I was thinking it would make a great post also! Look forward to reading it.

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    I really like your honesty bro!

    Praise is essential, especially when working with volunteers. I have heard and seen many people stop serving the church(or even quite a job) because they were never praised or thanked for their work.  

    I really like getting and giving gifts. I think another way to show praise is through a gift. A $5 Starbucks gift card with a thank you for all of your hard work shows a lot.

    Great post!!!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      My pleasure Dan. I feel if we can’t be honest with our struggles, our relationships won’t be as honest and sincere.

      Very true about the gifts and giving. It can make you feel valued without a lot of effort. It’s especially effective when you’re not expecting it.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    I have to admitt this is one area where I need to do better. In the online world I’m very generous to share and praise great content. I know how important it is to share great content but also let the content craetors know what an amazing job they’re doing.

    Having said that……. you’re doing great work Joe :)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       We’re in the same boat then Kimanzi. I struggle badly with giving praise well. Any ideas why it’s easier to give the praise online but not in person?

  • http://joshuamhood.com Josh Hood

    “It is simpler and easier to flatter people than to praise them.” So true!

    Thanks for the reminder, Joe.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       You’re welcome Josh. I hope you were able to give effective praise to someone today.

  • http://intentionaltoday.com/ Ngina Otiende

    I love building up my husband through praise. one thing i have learned (still learning) is to keep it sincere. its super easy to offer praise for things  i want to see, mostly creations of my own mind, instead what is honestly there. :). (also called exaggeration)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       That’s great Ngina. We need to be able to build up our spouses. We should be the ones that the know will raise them up. If we’re unwilling to do so they’ll find someone or something else that will.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I agree, Joe, praise should be given with certain sincerity and with certain criteria in mind.  With kids, (and perhaps some adults) however, the one thing I would beware of is praising “too” often.  I think if we’re not careful that over-praising can lead to pride and arrogance in the person being over-praised.  So, although it can be okay to praise often, I think we should refrain from praising too often.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Good point Dan. It’s got to be tempered with moderation as well, especially when it comes to children. Too much praise can make them too big for their britches.

  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    This post goes great with a post a read earlier today by Matt McWilliams – http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/thank-you-revolution/

    Expressing thanks to those around us is a huge part of giving effective praise.

    • http://www.mattmcwilliams.com/ Matt McWilliams

      Wow thanks Jon!

      • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

        No problem.  I really APPRECIATED your post today.

    • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

       Great post.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       Thanks for sharing Matt’s post Jon. Looks like it fits great with this post.

      • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

        I just discovered Matt’s blog earlier this week.  He writes some great stuff.  If you’re not already following him, I’d recommend you check him out.

  • jeff

    Maybe this is why I am correct not to give praise most of the time, because there are just times when I feel like I am just jealous and competitive toward someone, and I’m giving praise out of guilt.

    Amazingly, there are times when I do admire what someone is or has done, and I am seamless and sincere when I compliment them.  Huge disparity.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      I think that’s true Jeff. If you’re giving praise out of guilt it’s not true praise.

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  • http://www.alexbarker.org/ Alex Barker

    This reminds me of “How to divorce-proof your marriage”. I think I heard Michael Hyatt say this once (maybe not), to praise your spouse in front of others as often as possible.
    My coworkers continually are amazed to see fresh new lunches (made by my wife) nearly everyday. They ask, “How long have you been married?” “3.5 years” … “Oh…Well…. You’re still in the honey-moon phase. It all goes downhill from there.”
    I respond with, “No. See, I married the best woman in the world.”

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Alex, keep that attitude up! Treat your wife well and you’ll continue to see those lunches being made.

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