Criticize or praise?

I am a huge fan of praise. I love telling my colleagues, my kids, my friends, “Hey, great job.”

Last night at an opening night party (yes, I’m cool like that) for a new play, Unnatural Acts, at the Classic Stage Company, I saw Annika Boras, the actress who played Lady MacBeth there. I gushed, “You were so good.” And besides being brilliant — she’s beautiful and nice too! (It’s so great when that all comes together.)

I said, “Wow, great job. Love your work,” to Senator Chuck Schumer a month ago when I saw him at Jones Beach walking the boardwalk.

Just because I love giving praise, doesn’t mean everyone does. Or that everyone should.

I probably don’t receive as much praise as I give to the people in my life, like my spouse — people with Parkinson’s Disease are not known for being effusive. I do praise myself and give myself some positive self-talk. “Wow! MB! You were incredibly productive and creative today!” Yes, I have been known to kiss the mirror. (“You look good, MB!”)

I wonder if I need need more than most in the affirmation department. I may just be cut from a cloth that likes to give and receive kind words, being one of five kids from a slightly (?) dysfunctional family.

You may say, “It’s fine to praise yourself, crazy lady, just don’t over-praise your kids. The way everyone receives a medal, even if they came in last or simply existed.” To you, I say, “What?! What am I supposed to do? Tell them ‘Win next time.’ I love my kids unconditionally. I do try and praise effort most of all, being a fan of hard work. But I tell them all the time that I love them and that they are awesome. So sue me! I overpraise!”

My kids are more brilliant, beautiful, and sweet, even than Lady MacBeth. Not that I’m comparing. (That’s the kiss of death — compare and despair!)

Several business articles lately have backed me up on my penchant for praise. Praise is important in the workplace, actually, more important than criticism.  I like the way this article acknowledges that we don’t achieve anything alone; all achievements are the result of collaboration. And we ought to acknowledge our collaborators.

How much praise do we need to hear? And why are we so good at correcting one another rather than praising them? The Harvard Business Review offers some insights:

This is also what all the strengths-based learning is about. Lead with your strengths. Do what you’re good at it. To find what you’re good at, praise yourself. If that’s too weird, start by praising someone else and work your way back home.

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