Encouragement, Praise and Empowerment
There is a big difference between praise and encouragement. Many parents, employers and mentors do not know what to say that will motivate and empower others. As a parent educator and family coach for over 25 years, I have seen and experienced this confusion in my own life and the lives of others.
“Atta Boy” “Good Job” “Way to go” “That was a great catch.”
These are all compliments puppy dogs, small children and grown adults love to hear. When someone notices and comments in a positive way, not only animals but people want to do more. Everyone has a hunger for acceptance.
Not Everyone Likes Praise
We erroneously assume that everyone likes to be praised. That is not so! Praise and lavish compliments often make the recipient feel so uncomfortable or embarrassed, especially if others are present.
Emotional triggers come up that they are being judged or patronized.
To be effective praise must be felt by the recipient to be a reward and believed before it is accepted.
Product or Process
One of basic differences is that praise focuses on the product or end result. Encouragement focuses on the process. Encouragement can be transferred to other areas of life, but praise is very specific to one act or activity.
As an example of this, may I share a personal story? When our daughter Deb offers to clean my office, I am grateful and leave to run errands.
When I return and check the office and I say “You did a good job on putting the books in order on the shelves” I am praising. It is looking at one task and commenting only about that task.
Encouragement would comment on the organizing process rather than the job of putting the books in order. So when I say “You have a keen eye for organizing. When I look for a book now, I can more easily see the titles. You were clever enough to separate them into general subject areas. Your skill at sorting and prioritizing the material is a big help to running the office more efficiently.”
Key Words and Skills
When she in older and in the process of looking for a paying job, she will remember the key words and skills rather than the specific task.
The encouraging words of organizing, sorting, prioritizing, being clever, making order out of chaos, and a big help will give her a number of transferable skills.
Positive feedback or criticism
What happens if the work or the worker does not perform as expected? Criticism is another word for discouragement. If you see all the things that are wrong and comment only on them or give meaningless praise it does more harm than good.
The truth is that while you can’t always praise, you can encourage.
An encouraging remark may be; “You did a good job at organizing the shelves and I am confident that you have a creative way to finish the rest of the job.”
Encouraging comments tell the other person that he/she is smart and capable.
A wrong decision here or there does not constitute failure. When you encourage someone you literally give them courage to take risks or try new methods for solving problems.
Empower Problem Solving Skills
The most needed skill for the coming decade is the ability to solve problems and trouble shoot.
As parents, teachers and mentors, our job is to help our children and co-workers to help themselves. If we solve every problem or praise lavishly, we actually send a message that we do not think they are capable to problem solve.
Self Awareness Quiz
1. Do you remember someone encouraging you when you when you were a child? How did you feel?
2. Do you remember someone praising you for something you knew was not praiseworthy? How did you feel?
3. Encouragement, praise and empowerment- which do you think is the most effective way to motivate.