“Jennifer, we need to talk about your low productivity numbers. You are not reaching the goal and are far behind your fellow workers. Now, let me say, there are some bright spots in your work”

What’s problematic about this approach? For starters, it’s negative.

Like Jennifer, have you ever had a boss or family member who begins a conversation with what you need to improve? If so, you know that whatever follows doesn’t get heard or might even be nullified. Your brain is saying, “The person doesn’t care about my strengths, rather only my weaknesses.”

In the absence of praise, our brain goes negative.

In part, this explains why criticism is hard to hear. It spotlights what is wrong and tells the brain to focus on the negative. During that process, our body produces higher levels of neurochemicals that activate emotions and shut down thinking. When rejected or criticized, we want to protect ourselves and become reactive and sensitive. In fact, when we are in this state, we perceive more negativity than actually exists.

Years ago, when I was teaching parenting classes, I used to say, “Catch your child being good!” This intentional focus on the positive motivates a child to do better. And the same is true with adults. When you talk to employees in many organizations, they will tell you, praise from a direct supervisor or manager makes all the difference. It is motivating and spills out to the people around you. You want to do a good job when you hear the positive.

However, there is a type of praise you want to avoid. It is called comparison praise. Yes, it is just what you think–when you compare someone to another. That type of praise can deflate a person’s drive, ambition and potential. Theodore Roosevelt would agree when he said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Comparison praise diminishes a person’s worth and makes their worth contingent on things like position, status and success. Because of the impact, do not praise or compliment at the expense of another person. Simply tell the person what you enjoy or like about what they did.

Now, think about what you hear in the news and the culture. Is it positive? Or do we hear from the more vocal negative voices? What you say and do focuses the brain on either the positive or negative. It also tells your brain what to repeat. This is why the constant negativity we hear influences behavior in a negative way..

So if you want to encourage someone, take a few minutes each day to text message, praise  or say something positive. Look around for opportunities to emphasize the positive. It will make you and others feel good. And don’t compare! Remember, praise raises performance and encourages potential.

Make praise your default or as I once heard, democratize it. And while you’re at it, notice what someone does that is praiseworthy and let them know. After all, we are told…”whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8). Finally, don’t just think on these things, but also say them, text them or write them. See what a difference it will make.


More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad