Relationships die from neglect of the little things, the things that could have been prevented with a little care. Honest praise is one of those things.
Appreciation is a fundamental human need, and none of us gets enough praise. It’s crazy to overlook praising those who are closest to us. There have been a lot of studies about the importance of praise, largely of praise of children at school or praise of employees at work. They all essentially say the same thing: honestly praising people for their good work makes them happier and more effective. While it’s true that the best motivation to do well comes from within, it really helps to know that others notice our achievements and affirm them with deserved praise.
A Quick Praise Checklist
If you’re not familiar with those studies, I’ve created a quick summary check list of their advice, adapted for personal relationships.
- Praise means more when it is for something that matters to the person you’re praising, rather than for a superficial thing.
- Recognizing and reinforcing the other person’s strengths is likely to yield more of the same actions. For instance, if your partner or spouse is an excellent cook, you’re more likely to have unforgettable meals if you remember to praise his abilities.
- Leave a lasting impression by being specific with your praise. Rather than just saying, “Good job on our vacation budget,” expand that idea to include how it happened and what it means to you. “I really appreciate your tracking of our expenses so we didn’t go over budget on our vacation. The trip is more enjoyable when I don’t have to worry about unexpected bills when we return home.”
- Expand your appreciation and respect beyond words to include simple acts. A small gift, like taking a turn for a few extra household chores, works. Don’t give a criticism sandwich – a request for an improvement or different action sandwiched between two statements of praise. It makes your praise seem insincere, or as a prelude to what you really want to tell them. Moreover, in the future when you speak words of praise, they are likely to not hear or remember them because they’re waiting for you to deliver your real message – the one that criticizes.
- Give praise when you feel th other person has done something to earn it, not because you feel you have to. If you’re uncertain how you feel, ask yourself this question: would I say this if no third party were listening?
- Do give praise in private also – it might seem counter-intuitive because we’ve been taught to criticize in private and praise in public, but sometimes that’s not the right way to go. Some people would rather be praised in private. Sometimes, circumstances call for discretion. For instance, if your husband is pulled over for speeding and the kids are in the back seat, praising him for holding his tongue while being lectured by the officer is best left for a private moment.
We all long for feedback. It’s easy to criticize those we’re closest too when we see something wrong. It’s equally important to let them know that we see what they do well also. When your praise is sincere and frequent, others know what is important to you.
Giving others praise can also make you feel good about you. It can also help both of you think creatively to address problems, feel happier about your relationship, and be more accountable to each other. Sometimes, it can even help both of you enjoy better health, perhaps because you generally feel happier and less stressed. You both may feel more committed to your relationship and to reaching mutual goals, or resolving subsequent problems in a mutually agreeable way,
Being taken for granted is an unpleasant but
sincere form of praise. Ironically, the more
reliable you are, and the less you complain,
the more likely you are to be taken for granted.
~ Gretchen Rubin
Your Personal Appraisal
- How well do you remember to give praise?
- When was the last time you praised your partner or valued friend?
- What’s the hardest part for you about speaking words of praise?
Live Honest, Open and True
Praise is a fundamental yet often overlooked form of verbal communication. Start a praise habit. The people who are most important to you will love the appreciation, and you’ll feel better about yourself, too.
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