Monday, February 6, 2012

The Praise Sandwich

Coins have both heads and tails. If you flip them long enough, you will find that the odds of getting heads or tails is pretty even – one shows up as often as the other. Praise and criticism are also two sides of the same coin. However, if you look at how often praise is delivered and how often criticism is delivered, could you honestly say that both sides end up equal, or is your flipping a little lopsided?

This is my blog and I’ve already given you all way to much information about me. But here comes some more! My family has always had a tendency to find criticism helpful and too much praise to be coddling. For instance, if I show them my Get It Together Girl workbook or send them a link to my blog, their first comment will be something about a typo or other mistake they’ve found. I can remember bringing home a test where I got 49/50. My mom’s first question was, “What did you miss?”

Sure, eventually, they’ll get around to saying something positive, but it’s almost certain that the first words they utter will not be.

I don’t say this as an indictment of my family because I know why they do it. Criticism, from their perspective, is what I need to perform better. Criticism lets me know where I need to improve. They are coming from a place of love and I recognize that. However, I also recognize that we need praise in equal measure.

Criticism lets me know where and how I need to improve. Praise lets me know what I’m doing right and what my strengths are. We all need both, and like the coin, we need them in more equal measures.

I don’t think my family is alone in singing the praises of criticism. I think a lot of us focus on what can be done better or differently. Criticism can be a motivator but only when it is paired with praise. A discussion of weaknesses is not complete without a discussion of strengths.

Without praise, all someone hears is what they are doing wrong and if that is all someone hears then the question becomes, “What’s the point of doing anything?” or “Why bother?”

So here are some final thoughts.
  • When giving praise and criticism, start with praise first.
  • Be as specific about praise as you are about criticism.
  • Don’t use the word ‘but’ to start off the criticism, because that word negates everything that comes before it.
  • If you can, end by offering a solution or a little more praise.
NOT: “I noticed you were a bit flat going into the chorus but I enjoyed your performance (vague praise and coming after the BUT the praise sounds like an afterthought).”

BETTER: “I loved the tone of your voice and that song really emphasized your range (specific praise, given first). I did notice a little flatness going into the chorus (specific criticism). I’m sure that is something you can easily work on with your vocal coach (solution).

If you are going to be quick to criticize, be prepared to praise!

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