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Praise Makes Us Brave

Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was and several other wonderful books, says this frequently.

Praise makes us brave.

Want to nudge your partner to tackle a big project or make a challenging change? Praise gives a much bigger nudge than criticism does.

Oh, how I have to remind myself of this, often in mid-criticism. I give myself a pat on the back for remembering and changing course.

Want your partner to praise you more and criticize you less? Ask for it. Avoid implying your mate ought to fix a deficiency. Instead, praise some of the other ways he or she has met your needs and lifted you up. People who don't normally praise probably don't feel comfortable dishing it out. It will take a stretch for your mate. But praise makes us brave.


SO true! I'm a "praiser" but some of my loved ones are not. I was thinking about what some of the reasons might be that some people don't like to praise or feel comfortable doing so...what have you come up with?

Marvy Patty. I have a tendency towards criticism, but I have learned the value of dishing out a constant stream of praise for Tammy, friends, family and students. I feel a lot better about myself afterwards to boot. Gotta love that Barbara Sher!!!

Thank you, Niloofar. I love questions like these! Here are some reasons people don't feel comfortable giving praise:

  • They cannot stand to be judged, and they assume others feel the same. They don't praise, but they also don't complain.

  • They believe it's better to be listen to your own judgment than seek approval from others. In general, this is a good idea, but research shows those who respond passively to stories of their life partner's successes are more likely to find their partnership ended than than those who join in celebrating the success and what led to it.

  • They are in awe of you or ashamed of themselves and cannot imagine you would find them worthy of offering you praise. Specifically invite them to join you in celebrating your successes.

  • They grew up hearing (perhaps by one divorced parent about the other) that praise is just words and words are a dime a dozen and actions speak louder than words. By actions, they often mean their own actions in helping the child earn that praise, including their critiques of the child. It can take a while to recognize and silence that hurtful voice. Letting them know you appreciate their praise when it accidentally slips out will help.

  • They have been manipulated through praise by someone important to them into doing something other than what makes them happy. Giving praise makes them feel sleazy, but they will actively encourage you to follow your dreams. Present your successes as being in line with your dreams to hear their encouraging words.

What reasons have you noticed?

Great reasons!

The biggest one that comes to mind for me is that a lot of people just truly believe that criticism is motivating and that praise begets complacency. They think they are helping you be better, stronger and happier through their "perfecting".

Ah, yes. And if we pause in our response to getting something a lot more grating than what we expected, we can instead enjoy the love in their intention.

Only over the past five or six years have I come to realize the truth of what you are saying, Patty. It is all a matter of whether you prefer causing a frown or smile.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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