Nov 26, 2013

In Praise Of Praise

I met a recently engaged couple while living in Thailand earlier this year. I asked Phil to share his favourite thing about his fiancee, Emily, and he was quick to answer. “Emily is really nurturing and patient with me. She’s very sweet to me when I need it the most.”

Emily was completely taken aback. “That’s the last thing I ever thought you would say,” Emily marveled. When I asked Emily the same question about Phil, he was equally surprised by her response. The point being, neither Emily nor Phil had the slightest clue what their partner’s favourite thing about them was.

The even stranger part is this- I always ask this question of couples I coach. The surprise at the question’s answers is not only common with these couples; it occurs almost 100% of the time.

These couples are failing to verbalize the value their partners bring to their lives. But this failure to praise doesn’t just occur within romantic relationships. Most people are reluctant to vocalize their appreciation for others in their lives. Because there is a certain kind of vulnerability in letting people know that they bring value to your life that you both recognize and cherish, many people find it difficult to praise those they respect and admire.

This lack of communication about what we value in those closest to us has to end.

Why Praise Is Important

Everyone loves hearing how they positively impact your life.

Whether it’s something as seemingly small as telling your Starbucks barista that you really appreciate his fantastic mood, or reminding your wife of ten years exactly what you love about her and what she brings to your life… Praise is powerful.

People rarely tire of being told how great they are when the praise comes from a genuine place.

If you are rarely vocal about your appreciation for those in your life, I would implore you to reconsider your position on praise.

I have a friend named Todd who has hand-written a letter of gratitude and praise to someone every single weekday for over a decade. That’s right… Monday to Friday… signed, sealed, delivered.

And while I don’t necessarily recommend going from zero to hero in your appreciative prowess, expressing your appreciation a couple of times a month will do the trick.

So how do you praise the deserving people in your life?

Praise as a Practice

Think about every person in your life that has brought value to your life. If they were gone today, you would want them to have known how much they meant to you.

Your parents, your significant other, your close friends, your not-so-close friends, your coworkers, your former employers, your mentors, your elementary school soccer coach…

Think about the impact that these people have had on you. Think about how that impact deserves to be recognized.

Write down a master list of all those who have positively affected you throughout your life. (This list will continue to grow as time goes on.) And to start the exercise, pick one person that you feel like reaching out to.

What Do You Praise Them On?

To find out what to say to this person, ask yourself the following questions:

1. What have they brought to your life?

2. What do you respect or admire in their character?

3. What do you want them to know in terms of what you think about them?

4. In what way(s) have they inspired you to be a better person?

5. What are you happy that they do with their lives, whether it affects you directly or not?

Ask yourself all of these questions, and jot down any thoughts that come to mind.

How To Structure Your Message

While there’s nothing wrong with a flowing heart-felt message, if you need an extra boost of encouragement (or you just enjoy structure in general) in lavishing your praise on others, here is a format that I have found to be very easy to fill in the blanks.

1. State why they were on your mind

2. Mention a time in your life that they particularly inspired you or did something that affected you positively

3. Speak to their character and why they deserve your message

4. Tell them what you think about them in detail

5. Thank them

6. Remind them why they deserve your praise and why they shouldn’t brush it off casually

7. Wrap it up

So a sample message would look something like this…

“Hey Laura,

I was walking downtown recently and passed a bakery that smelled like fresh apple pie. It made me think of you, and the desserts you used to make at our Sunday dinners.

You may not remember it as vividly as I do, but that time that you pulled me out of the semi-frozen lake really affected me. It affected me because it felt indicative of the courage that you have in your life overall. Without hesitation, you came to the rescue. And since then, I have always seen you in this light.

Whether you are with your children, your friends, or just deciding where to vacation next, you have always been a courageous risk-taker. You have such a kind heart. I don’t think you realize the effect you have on others. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you. Thank you for taking risks. Thank you for being the courageous, caring, kind-hearted person that you are. I see what you bring in to this world and I applaud it. All of it.

I know that there’s probably at least a little part of you that wants to brush this letter aside and think “Well, if you really knew me, you wouldn’t be saying these things.” But I do know you. And I am saying these things. You deserve all of these words and more.

Sincerely, Jordan”

How To Deliver Your Praise

Whether you deliver your praise verbally, by text, email, snail mail, or carrier pigeon, there isn’t really a wrong way to send someone a heaping dose of appreciation for their awesomeness.

I, personally, aim to send around five text messages and one lengthier (300-800 word) electronic message per week (using email or social media).

When and how you deliver your message should be calibrated to what you feel most comfortable with.

WaxLetter

Other Options For Delivering Your Praise

Your praise doesn’t have to fit into any specific formula.

You can text your friend a two sentence piece of appreciation, or you could send them a bullet-point list of 100 things that you love about them. The options are endless.

Just make sure that you calibrate it to what you enjoy. The more enjoyable the process is for you, the more likely you will do it in an on-going manner.

What You Get Out Of It

To put it bluntly, you feel fantastic. Since the people in your life know what you appreciate, you get more of what you want.

You make the world a better place to live in. You get to remind people how much they matter to you.

And guess what… they won’t always be around for you to be able to let them know. So stop holding on to your secret admiration. Let out your praise. Tell people what they mean to you. Start today.

What To Do Right Now

Take action!

You know what to do. You know who matters to you.

Send up a quick text “Hey buddy, just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you and I so appreciate you in my life. Can’t wait to (DO THAT EPIC THING YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR THE COMING MONTHS).”

Draft up your first extended gratitude letter and send it off within the next 24 hours.

Do you want to make the world a better place? Thanks to the ease of modern communication systems, it’s never been easier.

So go forth and spread your appreciation. You, and everyone in your life, will benefit.

Dedicated to your success,

Jordan

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