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Spontaneous Overflow Reflecting in Tranquility

The Official Blog of Michael Schoenhofer, Executive Director

Stop Saying, "Good Job!"

Every parent wants to know: “How can I help my child build a positive self-image? Every manager wants to know: “How can I motivate my workers toward their strengths? In every marriage or relationship we want to know: “How can I communicate effectively to this person I love how great they are?”

Most of us use some form of praise. But there is a problem with praise – It is so easy for the listener to doubt the sincerity, the motivation, or the knowledge of the speaker. Generic comments like “great job” are dismissed as meaningless no matter how genuinely they were intended.

For example, you throw together a meal at the last minute composed of Minute Rice, canned soup, and some two day old chicken chunks and someone praises your culinary ability. You change into an old pair of jeans and a sweater and someone says how beautifully dressed you are. Externally you say, “Thank you.” Internally you are thinking, “Really?”

Rather than offering praise in throw away comments like: “Great Job!” or “That was beautiful!” or “Brilliant!” Be more specific. Stop evaluating the performance in general and describe specifically what you appreciated. The more specific you are the more the individual, a child, a spouse, or a colleague will take to heart your words and feel appreciated. Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in “How to Talk So Kids Will Listen,” say to get rid of those tired old words like – Good / Great / or Fantastic. These are evaluating words.

Instead describe: 1) what you see; 2) what you feel; and then 3) Sum it up with a word.

Here’s an example they offer that focuses on praising a child: 1. Describe What You See. “I see a clean floor, a smooth bed, and books neatly lined up on the shelf.” 2. Describe What You Feel. “It’s a pleasure to walk into this room.” 3. Sum Up The Child’s Praiseworthy Behavior With A Word. “You sorted out your Legos, cars, and farm animals and put them in separate boxes. That’s what I call organization!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to hear something like that instead of “beautiful” or “fantastic job?” I don’t care how old you are we all need to know someone noticed. The world we live in is slow to praise and quick to criticize, yet the greatest motivator is when we know someone noticed something we accomplished and then took the time to let us know.

How hard is this? The next time you have an opportunity to praise someone, take the time to think about what you saw or how it made you feel. Can you summarize it in a word? You will have given that person something they will treasure and remember rather than a throw away comment they will dismiss. And all the better if you take the time to write a note.

According to Faber and Mazlish, “Rewards last a minute but a word of praise well done will last a life time.”

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