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Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

Conflict in the Workplace

Motivation: Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

Promoting Healthy Behavior Change

10 Common Errors in CBT

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Rejection Sensitivity, Irrational Jealousy and Impact on Relationships

For Women Only: How to Have the Relationship of Your Dreams

What to Do When Your Partner's Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Relationship

Making Attributions for a Healthier Attitude

Happiness is An Attitude

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

The Effectiveness of Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment for Anxiety Disorders

Co-Dependency: An Issue of Control

The Pillars of the Self-Concept: Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?


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Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

Loving Kindness Meditation

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Rainy Autumn Morning

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Quick Stress Relief

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

Kindle Books by Dr. Monica Frank


Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

The Porcupine Effect: Pushing Others Away When You Want to Connect

What if You Considered Other Peoples' Views?

5 Common Microaggressions Against Those With Mental Illness

What to Expect from Mindfulness-based Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (MCBT) When You Have Depression and Anxiety

Does Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Lack Compassion? It Depends Upon the Therapist

When Needs Come Into Conflict

What to Do When Anger Hurts Those You Love

A Brief Primer On the Biology of Stress and How CBT Can Help

50 Tools for Panic and Anxiety

Coping With Change: Psychological Flexibility

Breaking Up is Hard to Do: Ending a Bad Relationship

I'm Depressed. I'm Overwhelmed. Where Do I Start?


Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training

Riding a Horse Across the Plains

Cityscape Mindfulness

Change Yourself--Don't Wait for the World to Change

The Great Desert Mindfulness

Tropical Garden Mindfulness

Thinking Your Way to a Healthy Weight

Lies You Were Told

Probability and OCD

Choosing Happiness

Magic Bubbles for Children

Lotus Flower Relaxation

Cloud Castles for Children

Hot Air Balloon Motivation

All Audio Articles

March 17, 2017       

In Praise of Specific Praise

by Monica A. Frank, Ph.D.
Many know how to flatter, few know how to praise. Wendell Phillips
Most people know the value of praise, but few people provide it effectively. Providing specific praise can enhance performance and productivity at work. It can improve the quality of personal relationships. It can teach children how to navigate life successfully.

“Great job!” or “I liked your presentation” may be easy praise to give but it is not as effective as specific praise. Instead, “You really helped the team by providing those statistics for the presentation” is more likely to make an impact. A person receiving such praise will not only know their work was appreciated but will know that they were noticed—it's not just empty flattery.

What is the purpose of praise?

1) To create goodwill. People give praise because they want to establish relationships whether it is a friendship or a business association. Praise builds positive regard and a friendly attitude. Others are more likely to respond in kind.

2) To encourage behavior. When people are given reinforcement for something they did they are more likely to engage in the same behavior again. Praise is a form of reinforcement so it tends to encourage desired behavior. This is also why it is not good to praise generally for undesired behavior. For instance, if a boss says “Good job” when the work is substandard, the employee will think that it is acceptable.

If a child is given a trophy for participation, the child comes to believe that no effort beyond participation is necessary. If you want to recognize children when they don't win, at least recognize them for the effort they made. Of course, that takes more work because the amount of effort would need to be evaluated.

3) To teach. When a person tells someone, “I like how you gave examples of the different scenarios during your presentation” it teaches what is meaningful to others. Also, building on praise instructs a person on how to improve: “I liked the examples you gave—giving a greater variety would make it even better.”

If we consider these purposes of praise, you can see why general praise may not be very effective. To some degree, it may generate goodwill, but even then, people often think that it is not very meaningful: “She's just saying that.” General praise doesn't do a good job at all of encouraging behavior. “My boss said I did a good job but I don't know what I did that made a difference. I don't know how to do it again.” And general praise doesn't teach or help improve behavior.

But specific praise means a person took the time and made the effort--they paid attention. When people know they are noticed and their efforts are recognized, they feel appreciated. As a result, they are more likely to strive to gain more such notice.

Components of specific praise

1) Detailed. Specific praise provides a great deal of detail. If you ever notice when people criticize someone, they usually provide substantial detail. This is often what makes criticism effective (unfortunately at making people feel bad and discouraging them). Praise needs to be just as detailed.

2) Precise. The details provided need to be precise. The behavior needs to be named clearly. Telling an athlete “That was a good effort” isn't as precise as saying “I noticed your movement was very fluid and unpredictable.”

3) Believable. When praise is detailed and precise, it is more believable. When you comment on a specific aspect of what someone did, they know you made an effort to pay attention. General praise isn't believable because it could be said to anyone about anything.

Some additional examples

1) “I can see that making the effort to consistently do your math homework has helped your grade."

2) “You showed how much you listened by the probing and specific questions you asked.”

3) “I really appreciate the effort you made helping the new employee feel comfortable by taking him to lunch and introducing him to others.”

4) “I notice that you're working more independently by researching solutions to the problems rather than asking immediately for the answers.”

Note: If you have any good examples to share, please include them in the comment section.


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