Are We Being Crushed by the Weight of Empty Praise?

You know what I get tired of hearing? You’re all doing a great job. Keep up the good work. You do so much good work, and we want you to know we recognize and appreciate it. Now, no doubt, these are all words of encouragement and praise, and I’m not saying I dislike nice comments being made about me. What bothers me, though, is when these are the full statement. If the only praise you can offer is super vague and generic, it seems to lack some real sincerity. Having received plenty of that style of praise, and trying very hard to make sure I’m not giving it myself, I’ve come to think that it does more damage than good.

Now, to avoid being overly dramatic here, I should say that once in a while, this kind of praise is fine. After all, some interactions are too short to really do a deep dive into exactly what the person or group are doing so well. Where I think it gets dangerous, though, is when it is a consistent pattern. If every time you meet with someone, you praise the great the work they are doing, but you can never mention something they are actually doing, it raises a few questions. Do you even know what we’re doing? Do you care? What are the good things I’m doing, so I can continue to build on it?

It can, in very short time, move from being received as praise to being a shallow attempt to placate and pacify the people you’re working with. If you want your praise to be received well, make sure you have an actual target to praise. Also, don’t just praise. The praise means more if it comes from someone who you know will also offer fair criticism. It ups the level of sincerity, and makes it feel like the praise and recognition you offer is something really significant.

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