“Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity.”
— Samuel Johnson
I ran out of N’s tonight.
The reader board at my daughter’s school was to announce an upcoming pareNt’s Night as well as a baNd coNcert. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough N’s. Fortunately, a quick change from ‘night’ to ‘eve’ fixed this minor problem of scarcity.
A shortage of characters is a rather unusual situation because today, whether we’re communicating electronically or verbally, we have unlimited use of language. There aren’t any shortages of words or letters. It’s an infinite resource.
However, in spite of this unlimited resource, there still seems to be a shortage of quality feedback.
It is quite easy to praise someone’s work with a useless “Good job” or even indifference, rather than providing thoughtful, encouraging and nourishing feedback which motivates. Providing specific, objective assessment of what you see also helps avoid putting moral judgements on work and provides more substantive and meaningful evaluation.
Let me throw out a few ideas on how to praise and encourage someone in a more meaningful way.
- “The direction you took with this project not only delivered results on time, it had an unexpected benefit of eliciting several positive responses from the customer.”
- ( to a child ) “I see that adding in the pack of M&M’s to your drawing really pleased your little sister. “
- “You enunciated your points clearly and your organization lent itself well to delivering the primary message.”
- (to a child) “Without being asked, you not only picked up your clothes but your brother’s too. That saves Mom and Dad a lot of time and I know your brother appreciated it.”
- “What were the most difficult parts of this assignment? Did they take longer, or were they just more difficult to understand?”
The key is identifying the specific things that were done well, focusing on the feelings of the other person and your non-judgemental feelings, and showing the positive effect that ensued.
More concisely, emphasize the specifics, feelings and effects.
Here is a well-written article by Alfie Kohn which appeared abridged in Parents magazine a number of years ago. He talks about how to quit saying “Good Job!” and instead how to give kids unconditional love and support. I think a lot of this applies to adults as well.
Giving feedback can be an extremely valuable motivational tool so don’t be frugal or thoughtless with your evaluations.
Updated the reader board at my daughter’s school, making due with what letters I had.
Your definition of “the key” is excellent – I copied it for my quotes collection, including the link to this page of course.
Thanks Maria, I hope you’ll find it useful. It takes practice, but it is so much more effective (and gratifying) to give (and receive) specific positive feedback.