Tuesday, July 7, 2009

38) The Golden Rule (continued)

"There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world, than for bread."
Mother Teresa

As a Corporate Trainer, I have had many sessions with Senior Managers. During one such session, a Senior Manager posed me a problem: "I have a team of 25 people reporting to me. With 24 I have really no problems; but one is unmanageable. What do I do?" After some thought I answered him: "I do not know your team mate, so I cannot offer a solution. But I have a few questions. Would you be willing to answer them?" "Yes", was the prompt reply. "What are the weaknesses, the minus points of this person?" The Manager stood up with a smile, since he was on home ground, and listed not less than 10 weak points. My next question was:"Does he have at least one strong(one plus)point?" "No", was the abrupt reply, "he has three". The three were listed. "Did you speak to him about his strong points?" I queried. "No", the Manager answered. I continued: "I do not have a solution to your problem. You have it." The Manager sat down slowly, and brightened up as he did. One month later I received a call from him. He put it briefly: "It worked". Praise worked. No wonder Mark Twain was happy to admit: "I can live for two months on one good compliment". Two months, just for a few words! That is some power! If praise is so powerful, why are we miserly in giving it? And when we praise, we do it so grudgingly, as though we were parting with something of immense value to us.

Dale Carnegie exhorted us to " be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise". And Samuel Johnson was emphatic when he wrote: "The applause of a single human being is of consequence". Despite these urgings, we know that people are praised profusely only at condolence and farewell meetings, and not when we live and work with them. When we know that praise works wonders, why are we so niggardly?
Perhaps our cussedness is to blame. We believe, wrongly, that by praising others we are diminished. Or, again wrongly, that praise can pervert a person; make him vain.
These are unsound arguments. Through praise when we make others feel good, our image
is enhanced, not diminished. And, if we are not perverted when we receive praise, why
do we fear that others will become vain with praise? Our defense against giving praise is porous. Compliments may seem like much 'air'; like air that goes into our car tires. On life's highway those praise-filled tires can carry us a long way. A lot of people have traveled much farther than they thought they would, because someone thought they could. It follows, that without exception, we all hunger for praise. The good part is that such hunger can be satisfied without a repast; without spending a dime.

Take a rubber ball and bounce it. It comes to hand. Bounce it again. Again it comes to hand. Praise follows a similar pattern. The more we give of it, the more of it comes back to us, not necessarily from the same people we praise. The habit creates an aura around us, which people notice and respond to heartily. Praise is like motoring down a two way street; as one compliment heads north, another is traveling south.

Are there any guidelines in giving praise? YES.
1) Praise should not be confused with flattery. Flattery is favorable, but untrue comment. Praise is favorable and true comment. We should pause to consider the Greek Proverb: "Many know how to flatter; few understand how to praise".
2) Give praise immediately. When we hear a good word or witness a good action, we should praise the person without delay.
3) Praise should be specific, not general. "That was a good talk", is general. "I liked your talk for its content, structure and anecdotes", is specific.
4) Praise often. The hunger for praise is never fully satisfied.
5) Praise in the presence of others, because the appreciative glances of those around
will add weight to the praise given.
6) Praise must match the level of performance. E.g.,'excellent' for a good performance, or 'very good' for an average performance are mismatched. When we praise, our honesty is also on test.

Counselors point out that a transaction which begins with a sincere compliment, seldom ends in an argument, because praise ignites a flame of goodwill which is not easily extinguished. Without doubt, our children should learn how to praise and realize that it is the second most effective tool(the first being Forgiveness, post 37), in building relationships.

While much can be said in favor of giving and receiving praise, we should not lose sight of a camouflaged negative. In post 32(childhood)we referred to this minor problem. Goldsmith has the right words to describe the problem: "He who seeks applause from without, has all his happiness in another's keeping". The craving for applause is so strong in some that they are likely to force it out of others through
stage-managed situations, contrived performances and faked results. In other words, they live each moment expecting praise and are deeply distressed when they do not receive it. Such people hanker for praise because of a sense of insecurity. They can free themselves from the shackles of insecurity through an act of will: Praise is welcome, but not the only route to happiness. Our children should steer clear of such traps. They must know that a good thought, word and deed are rewards in themselves. Praise is just the bonus, which may or may not be received.

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