Monday, 21 July 2014


The right praise at the right time can have a powerful impact, but there are a few do's and don'ts that we need to be aware of.

1. Dog or Cat?
Some people are primarily externally directed - they judge the value of their work by the feedback that they receive, whether it's an approving comment, evaluation data or a letter from a satisfied service user.  Praise can really give these people a lift.

However, some of us are internally directed.  We make up our own minds about how well we're doing - 'I'm the one doing the job, so I'm best-placed to evaluate my performance'.  These people are less interested in praise, and if you give them too much they may feel irritated.

How do you know which type you are dealing with?  Externals tend to be more facially responsive - they smile, nod and watch your expression closely.  Internals tend to be less expressive: you get the impression that they are less interested in what you are saying.

2. Don't Patronise Me!
The very act of giving praise implies that you are somehow in a position of judgement. There is a danger that the unspoken message is 'I have assessed your performance and I approve of it'.  This is sometimes valid and appropriate, but if you want to praise someone without implying a power differential here are some phrases to use:

'One of the things that I admire about you is....'

'I really respect you for the way that you.....'

3. Flesh it Out
We're often taught to phrase constructive criticism in terms of specifically what the other person did (or didn't do), the impact of their behaviour, and to explore alternative approaches.  The same process works well when praising someone:

'Yesterday then that man was becoming really agitated in reception you went over to him, sat down with him and listened while he vented his frustration.....' (Specific)

' meant that he calmed down quickly and I noticed that several staff who had been looking quite anxious were reassured by what you did.' (Impact)

'I really admire your knack of defusing potentially tricky situations like that.  Is is something you've learnt to do over time? Have you always been good at it?' (Explore).