Most people, I’ve noticed, find it hard to compliment or praise others. Worse yet, there are actually those who won’t ever say a positive thing about anyone.
I’ve often wondered, even when I was still young, why people were like this. It was normal for me to hear adults criticizing each other, making snide remarks or backstabbing each other. Never did a day pass when I didn’t hear anyone say something negative about something or someone.
This annoyed me. It rattled my equilibrium. I somehow knew it was wrong. So I blithely escaped by reading books. Lots of books. Our school library was my safe haven, my source of all good things. After dismissal, I’d make a mad dash for the library, hoping that the book I wanted to read next was still on the shelf. Basically that’s how I survived my childhood and all the negativism around me.
Did I emerge from it unscathed? Of course not. I became a critical, cynical, judgmental person myself. A diluted version, thank goodness. But a venomous version just the same. I just expressed my negativism using a more subtle, inventive, sinister vocabulary that sounded witty and clever — even funny at times — but I was negative and mean beneath the layers. When friends said I was acerbic, I considered it a compliment.
But, thank God, things radically changed when I had to work with a different breed of people. Four women, to be exact. They were highly intelligent, secure individuals who had excellent work ethics. They made me feel smarter and better about myself. We became ultra-loyal friends to each other. They certainly raised the bar for me.
From them, I learned to give praise easily, openly, unabashedly, sincerely — and in words that weren’t careless, empty platitudes. When we praised people for their good character or a job well done, we were specific, descriptive, precise. Occasionally we were effusive with our praise — for those rare times when someone accomplished a feat beyond our wildest expectations. We were effusive for days.
No wonder our team accomplished much. Our friendships continue to thrive to this day. And it all started with this unwritten code: Be generous with praise that’s well-deserved. Do it fast. Do it now. The thing was, we were only in our mid-to-late 20s then. We learned how to be generous with well-deserved praise from our boss who was only 27 years old. That practice, I believe, was the secret to our department’s success. You’ve probably seen this — people tend to do even better when they’re openly affirmed.
So, if giving praise and encouragement is such a good thing, why are most people stingy with praise? I think, generally, it’s because of envy, jealousy, insecurity, pride (a false sense of superiority, self-centeredness, egocentricity), insensitivity, selfishness, or just plain bad manners. Some parents told me they don’t like to praise their children because they might become proud. Ridiculous, right?
There could be more reasons, but these are the ones I’ve seen at play.
As a rule, the more intimidated we are, the less inclined we will be to praise that person.
The more we think someone doesn’t like us, the harder it’ll be to praise him/her.
The more we covet what someone has, the harder it will be to praise that person.
On the other hand, praise can be used to manipulate. To promote ourselves. To get accepted into a circle one wants to penetrate. But at the end of the day, fake praise is detectable and obvious. It eventually backfires.
Cultivate the habit of being generous with well-deserved praise. It’ll help dissipate your insecurity and envy. People will find you pleasant to be with. It’ll increase your happy hormones. It’ll improve your character and make you look more attractive.
All in all, it’s a beauty secret that defies age and circumstances.