Is The Way We Process Praise Killing Our Potential?

TSP • @myTSPnet


Can you think of a time you received praise and didn’t enjoy it — probably not. That’s because humans naturally love being praised. It’s no secret that it feels great to have our efforts acknowledged and the confidence boost doesn’t hurt either. But, studies show that praise could actually be hurting us more than it helps. Follow the below tips to rethink and reprogram the way you receive praise.

The problem with praise is that it encourages repetition — not growth. When your brain receives a reward, like a simple “great job” from your boss, it learns to repeat that action, which then creates a habit. But, if we continue doing things the way we’ve always done them, we will never grow.

Because of this, criticism seems more effective than praise. This is because criticism is often followed by improvement because it produces fear and discomfort — two emotions that encourage immediate action. On the other hand, praise often leads to a decrease in performance, as employees get comfortable and overconfident in their abilities after receiving praise. Because of the way humans process praise, it doesn’t always lead to the growth and development that it should.

It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful people are also the most comfortable being critiqued. They don’t shy away from critiques, they welcome them, knowing it will only make them more successful.

When you receive criticism, start noticing how you react to it. Remind yourself that receiving criticism is not easy. Notice if you become angry or overly emotional. Start by thanking the individual who gave you the feedback and take note of their points. If you don’t understand or need more clarity, ask clarifying questions or for specific examples.

On the other hand, also notice how you react to praise. When someone compliments your work, do you feel a giddy rush of endorphins? Does it make you feel powerful? Do you notice yourself letting other things slide after getting a compliment or promotion? Self-reflection is one simple but effective way to increase our potential when we receive praise.

Success requires consistent improvement — praise and criticism can be inconsistent. Because of this, we must challenge ourselves to improve at all times, not just when we receive feedback. Start by setting measurable performance goals for yourself. If you find yourself consistently hitting your set goals, set them higher and see where you land. If you do not hit your goals, take a step back and think about why you might not be hitting them. Ask yourself if there are resources you’re not using or steps you’re skipping and use your discoveries to develop a new strategy.

We know ourselves better than anyone — oftentimes we don’t take full advantage of our own barometers on our success. We can gauge internally when we’re having a bad day or when a presentation goes smoothly. Make an intention to listen to your own intuition and guide your improvements through it. Instead of waiting for a coworker to praise your performance, give yourself a pat on the back and use that to fuel your next improvement.

One way to counteract the way we process praise is to change the way we give praise. The great thing about praise is that anyone can give it — it doesn’t matter if you’re an intern or a CEO. Teachers have conducted numerous studies on the correct type of praise to give students. Studies show that instead of praising arbitrary factors like intelligence or talent, we should praise tangible efforts, like drive, determination and concentration.

These more tangible areas of praise allow for improvement, whereas certain areas, like strength or kindness, are harder to measure and notice improvements on. Neither criticism nor praise is the issue in our improvements, instead the issue is in the way we process the two feedback mechanisms. Advancing in your career is dependent on improvements in performance, and the norm for humans is to only improve after receiving criticism.

To be truly successful, we need to be improving constantly, regardless of the feedback we’re receiving. Reflecting on the way you process both feedback mechanisms and using the above methods for improvement will ensure you’re always improving, regardless of feedback.