In Praise of PraIse

The evaluation form I ask participants to fill out at the end of classes is my chance to find out if I’ve met the expectations of the class. Over the years I’ve been running training programs, a lot of interesting information has come my way. I’ve changed classes, added suggested topics, and, occasionally, wondered what would possess someone to write a comment on the eval  form.

Adults learn differently from kids. Adults need to hear information more often, in different ways, in order to remember it longer. The word “educate” comes from the Latin “educare’ and it means ‘to pull out of,’ not ‘to stuff into.” Most people in the training sessions learn a lot from sharing information with people who work in similar business environments. Maybe even more than from me.

From me, they need to hear a practical application, examples that resonate with their experience, and reinforcement. If I tell a participant they are “wrong” or their writing “isn’t up to standards” in a training class, they won’t hear anything else I say.

My classes are short–one or two days. I can’t teach someone how to write in that time, or how to do presentations. But I can give them tools to use that will make them a better writer or presenter over time. And one way I do it is to find something to praise in every piece the participant reads or demonstrates in a presentation. By praising them for something they are doing well, it is more likely they will continue to do it.

That alone will make them a better writer or presenter, and that’s my goal. I’m not a magician, just a trainer.

I think there is not enough praise in business.  The reasoning is simple: Praise someone and they may ask for more money, maybe a raise. Wouldn’t want that. So keep them unsteady, unpraised and worried about job security. And that may work in this shaky economy, but it doesn’t breed loyalty. Or best efforts. It breeds resentment. And when the economy picks up, so will the people who felt belittled and demotivated. They will pick up and move on.

To be fair,  every now and then I get a comment on the evaluation form that baffles me. “You should be harsher in your criticism” said one. A few months later I got the more enigmatic,”You did not criticize other people’s work strongly enough.” I’m still not sure if they thought other’s work needed to be critiqued or if I had said something they interpreted as harsh. A few weeks ago I found this on an evaluation, “This isn’t a New Age training center, I expect some criticism that stings so I can improve.” What was that person’s childhood like? Is s/he a manager? Do they sting their co-workers with their remarks?

I’ll take being marked down for encouraging kindness and giving praise. I’d be honored.

–Quinn McDonald believes that if you praise what you want to get more of, you will get more of it.



12 thoughts on “In Praise of PraIse

  1. 🙂 This made me smile, because I am one who does think I learn better with constructive criticism. I like to get to the “how to improve” quickly, and I tend not to repeat mistakes when they are pointed out to me, so I like mistakes to be pointed out so I can fix them and learn from them.

    That said, I also like to be told gently, and I have no problem with praise either. I am a big believer in praise and positive reinforcement with children and adults.

  2. I believe praise is under used in our daily lives. When I thank someone for something, a job well done, an unexpected kindness I am always specific about it. The difference between saying “thank you” and “thank you for….” is seen on the face of the one I am speaking to, first surprise, then recognition that someone noticed! It’s a double good! We live in such an anonymous society that creates bad manners and allows ill tempers to go unchecked. One small act of praise can change and be passed on and on and on…..

    • No, you can’t keep everyone happy. Not even a fraction of the time. I’m with people only a day or two, and I find I get great results from praise. They remember it and that makes it work.

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