In Praise of Praise

When I talked to my friend Brian about 2-Minute Pep Talks, one theme that kept coming up was knowing your value and standing up for it. Brian mentioned that the Irish have a saying for taking someone down a peg when they’re trying to get credit for something, a saying often used in a derogatory way. In Germany, we have a similar expression: “No criticism is praise enough.”

If you wandered the hallways of nearly any company, however, within a single day, you would see that, clearly, a lack of admonition does not equal inspiration. Long faces in search of a compliment, starved of appreciation for months at a time, do not make for a workforce that likes to come in again on Monday.

Germans often overthink praise. They believe it must be substantial and, therefore, about something substantial. Better to only hand it out once a year, ideally along with a raise. No! The contents of your compliment almost don’t matter. If you tell me I’m wearing nice shoes, that might make my day — and while that has nothing to do with my performance at all, it might inspire me to perform well regardless.

Kindness is the lubricant that makes societal interactions run smoothly. Praise does the same for business. When people run on small doses of positive feedback, they are more inclined to try harder, more likely to tackle challenges with vigor, and more willing to go out of their way to help one another.

Be generous with your praise, and don’t stay silent when you think someone did something good. You never know what your compliment might inspire someone else to do, and you’ll gladly receive the return karma when you next need to hear something better than “no criticism is praise enough.”