Praise is often in short supply in business settings, especially compared with criticism. So many people try to look for the positive and give praise as a matter of form. So you might say, “Tom, thanks for the great report!”
It’s a nice thought, but superficial praise is like junk food: It’s tasty in the moment, but mostly empty calories. It doesn’t necessarily promote growth or well-being. Maybe that’s why many people deflect praise automatically, just brushing it off.
The key to nutritious feedback, whether positive praise or negative criticism, is to meet three criteria:
- Provide valid, specific information – unique to this situation
- Point towards building a more positive future
- Strengthen the personal connection between you and the recipient.
So when you praise someone, fortify your sweet words with nutrients that build capacity. Instead of saying, “Thanks for the great report!” ask yourself:
- What made it great? (e.g., it featured a key insight about XYZ)
- How will it be truly useful to you or the organization? (e.g., it will help us to reduce waste)
- How did it personally affect you in a positive way? (e.g., it inspired me to dig deeper when I do a similar analysis)
Now you can deliver a meaningful message:
“Tom, I read your report and really appreciated your insights. I hadn’t realized XYZ, and I can see it will help us to reduce waste. Plus, I was personally inspired by your methods to dig more deeply next time I do an analysis like this. Thank you.”
This kind of feedback is supports real growth – and tastes good, too.