In order to use praise to motivate, it should emphasize process, not ability. Further, to effectively motivate using praise, it needs to be framed within the context of a process. That process is part of a potentially ever growing intelligence.
Process relates to how the listener has applied themselves to a given assigned task. Process could include effort, good strategies, concentration, sticking to the project and not giving up when it got tough, planning, paying attention to details and others.
How praise is received by the listener is related to their view of their own intelligence, it is important to encourage the view that intelligence is malleable and not fixed.
The person who says I am no good at math, I can’t even draw stick people or I can’t write is expressing fixed views of intelligence. Unfortunately, that view is self limiting. That view makes motivation difficult at best.
Do an experiment. To learn how to best motivate individuals, ask your people if they feel intelligence is something we just have or is it something that we can learn.
The application to adult listeners relates to the right brain thinking we use in our everyday lives. The right brain is still a child at heart. The right brain responds to different motivators than the left.
There are benefits and risks related to giving praise in order to motivate. Some of the basic requirements for praise to result in sustainable motivation are…
These hold true for children and young adults and especially for those of us who are public speakers.
You will no doubt find your self gauging the praise you receive after a speech. Does the praise sound legitimate, was it flattery, did it identify which audience group you reached might be some of the concerns you will feel regarding this feed back.
How we feel about praise is a good tutor for how we should offer it to others. Whether to an individual or an audience...
Always avoid flattery and empty praise. Our spam filters are attuned to insincere praise. Those who offer flattery risk everything they say being tuned out or discredited. It certainly has limited ability to motivate.
In this regard, it is best to praise actions and not individuals. This is true for individuals and for a group.
This relates to the “I never win anything” feelings we have heard others express from time to time. By taking the 'I' out of the equation the praise now is shared by the audience as a whole. The compliment may influence the groups self concept and future behavior.
So make sure the praise is sincere.
Praise will not have the desired motivational impact if it is perceived as not truthful.
Global and all encompassing, effusive praise (“You are the best employees ever!”) has greater risk of being filtered out by the spam filters even though it may be used to rally on an audience.
Likewise giving praise to try to build up someone when it is dishonest will not provide the results you desire. It could even be discouraging to the person you are trying to encourage if they see it for what it is.
Telling someone how brilliant they are when they are not can even be demoralizing. How many really smart people are unsuccessful in business, marriage or relationships? Of what value is their intelligence to them?
If you want to motivate, make sure the praise is honest.
In addition to being sincere and honest, to use praise to motivate, the praise needs to be earned.
Using praise to boost motivation or self esteem where it was not due can yield negative results.
To appreciate this, ask your self, what is the difference between effort and ability?
No, no, no, answer the question first then go on.
To give unearned praise could give an unspoken message about ability. Kind and decent people do not criticize inability. So to give praise to motivate when it is unearned could result in the message, "I appreciate what you’re doing because you can not do any better…"
To correct this thinking re-frame your thoughts to include the belief that it is OK to fail. Use failure as a factor to motivate.
If we fail because we didn’t put in the required effort it need not affect our self concept. If our conscious beats us, it should because of failure to put in the effort.
On the other hand, the message of the failure resulting because of the lack of ability can be demoralizing. It can result in a 'why try any harder' attitude because I have no more ability than what I have. In this instance it is nearly impossible to motivate.
Thus failure related to a lack of effort, diligence, motivation or even other stressors (the process not ability) is best dealt with by criticized if benefits are to be realized. The criticism can be framed within the context of knowing the person can do better and giving the assurance or vote of confidence they have the ability to learn and rise above the failure.
How do they rise above the failure? What are you trying to motivate to get the most wanted response? They need to examine the process used, reevaluate and come up with a new process to enable success.
Failure can be acceptable if it is a learning process and used to motivate.
Ask questions like, “What did you learn?” If the person focuses on them selves, turn the conversation to the process. It was not the person who failed but the process. The failure allowed the person to learn.
If talking to an audience, make sure the point is on process and not the group. Using questions that arouse thinking of the audience can motivate.
This kind of praise can also be counterproductive. This is praise that includes key words or phrases to promote an action or direct a course that should be taken.
It could simply be adding words like, “…you should…” to the praise. The intended goal may be to motivate but in reality becomes control.
This results in the internal motivators switching off because of the external motivator phrase. The praise was given so that you will behave or do what the one giving the praise wants you to do.
Understanding the praise process requires understanding the view of intelligence.
Some feel intelligence is fixed or limited. Fixed or limited intelligence is evidenced in statements like 'I cannot draw.' 'I am no good at math.' 'I can't write.'
All these statements create a self fulfilling prophesy. As long as they are entertained, there is no reason to prove them wrong. There is no reason for disbelief so there will be no increase in knowledge.
I am guilty. I have said all three with the exception of drawing my limiting statement was I can't paint. It turns out not only can I paint, but my paintings and some of my art works sell for thousands of dollars.
As to math, I learned it to be able to become a nurse. As to writing, well, here I am, still needing an editor but here none the less. Learning that intelligence is malleable was a motivation for me.
To think that intelligence is fixed will result in a feeling of helplessness. A field of study in psychology referred to as learned helplessness gives some clues as to how the mind works in this area.
The difference here could better be described as neural programmed helplessness. The person has programmed their mind to the script that they are not good nor can ever be.
Increased effort is viewed as no value. Motivation is useless in many cases. The truth is that thinking is wrong.
The malleable view of intelligence on the other hand will result in a different view of failure. Performance is not a measure of how smart an individual is. Failure is easily viewed as a learning experience and something that can be improved upon. All that is required is greater effort.
Children with the malleable view are less concerned about failure because they do not view performance on any one task as a reflection of how smart they are. They believe that if they do fail, there is something they can do about it: Try harder.
Thus, children with a malleable view of intelligence believe that effort is useful. Children with a fixed view do not.
As adults we may believe this but not live our lives according to the belief. We may believe that knowledge is malleable but say, I am no good at... This needs to be recognized and addressed in a motivational speech in order to reach the audience with our motivation.
There are many types of praise. Praise can be given to the person we are in words such as, "You are a very brilliant person."
Praise can be given for the product or outcome from work preformed. "That was a great speech."
Praise can be given to the ability. "You are a very talented speaker."
And praise can be attributed to the process or action, "I am proud at how much work you have put into mastery of enthusiasm."
Praising the first three, the person, product or ability can result in short term benefits and long term harm. The resulting motivation can end up being short term.
Some think great achievers have done so because of ability. In my own experience, on hearing Benny Goodman play flight of the Bumble Bee on the clarinet I put mine away and lost all interest. A decision regretted to this day.
I regret even more that it took decades for me to learn that Benny Goodman practiced for almost 6 hours a day, every day. That information may have been all that was needed to motivate me.
Even the pro athletes who are collectors of my art although having natural ability, work hard at their game. It is nothing for them to have a work out schedule in the off season to keep in shape for the season. They also are on top of the latest medical procedures related to increase healing times.
One famous pro hockey player when injured ended up in the hospital the next day with a massive internal bleed. He refused a blood transfusion even though his count was at a life threatening level by bloodless medicine standards.
His recovery was considered remarkable and weeks faster that the top sports medicine doctors believed even possible.
This result was possible because of not only working hard, but studying hard. Imagine that, a hockey player up on the latest medical procedures. It results from a view of intelligence being malleable.
The person with a malleable view of intelligence will work harder, seek to gain experience and education and will look at failure as learning experiences.
If intelligence is a fixed ability, to maintain the label of being brilliant, will continue to try to look brilliant but not by continuing education. They will seek easier tasks rather than harder ones.
To praise the process can involve praise for the use of strategies to accomplish a goal, focusing, not giving up when faced with obstacles, attention to details, and good planning.
By praising the process, the receiver of the praise will want to apply the process to other challenges faced with. Motivation will be the fuel to continued growth.
By making your praise honest, sincere and to the process and not the person you will be on your way to promoting progress and learning.
But wait…How is neural linguistic programming different from praising. Doesn’t it require dishonest praise?
Although giving praise, rather than adding a controlling statement, it adds a programming statement. The end result is praising or complimenting into the conduct you want. Rather than using it to motivate, it is used to change the way a person thinks.
As to the honesty, it requires a lot of forethought to frame the praising statement as a positive and truthful statement. To learn more about this look at an expample of NLP and a wife who was able to reprogram her husband to eliminate his outburst of anger.
A True Story about Positive Speaking and complimenting or Praising people into the conduct you want or need.
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