Do you recall a time when praise gave you a lift?
I’ve enjoyed recreational swimming ever since my college roommate and I signed up for an endurance swimming class in our sophomore year. However, over time my stroke had become a diminished version of its former self – it had gotten a little sloppy. So I recently asked a life guard at the local pool to give me some pointers as I did laps. After a few weeks of fighting the water (as he looked on grimly), I heard him say, “That was decent.” And it brought a smile to my face.
We all enjoy and need praise! But did you know that praise is actually a two-way street? Let’s look closer at its benefits, and how you can develop the practice of praise in your own life.
It’s important to realize that each one of us is wired for validation. Self-esteem, the buzzword of our times, is a misnomer. None of us can simply approve of ourselves. People with good self-esteem got it from somewhere else first. They got it from someone else first, someone who first gave them approval and affirmation.
Given this deep and basic need of the human heart, when you praise another person, you give them a wonderful gift. But the gift is also to the giver. As we express our praise for others, it opens our own hearts to the blessings that surround us. It builds our awareness of what we have to be grateful for. Giving praise shines a spotlight on the grace that is already shining in on our lives.
How can you develop the life-giving and life-filling practice of praise?
1. Begin at home. It’s said that familiarity breeds contempt, but more commonly it breeds complacency. We can fall into the habit of taking one another for granted. Instead, take time to focus on the amazing gifts brought into your life each day by your spouse, children, parents, or siblings. Each person is truly a miracle, fearfully and wonderfully made. Let them know about it.
2. Be specific. It’s lovely to hear, “I appreciate you.” But it’s memorable to hear, “I appreciate you for your kind and thoughtful ways.” Let the other person know you have noticed and treasured something specific about them. They will rightfully feel that you have paid special attention.
3. Be consistent. Look at all the appointments that fill up your weekly calendar. There is at least one that probably doesn’t need to be there. Get rid of it, and instead put in a praise appointment. This is your reminder to deliver your gift in a timely and consistent way.
4. Extend your reach. As you strengthen your praise muscles, look to see who else you can extend your gift of praise to. Colleagues? Employees? Neighbors? The person who just served you coffee with a smile on their face? It doesn’t have to be elaborate or take much time, but practice your skill throughout the day.
This week’s self-reflection: Are you a praiseful person? Do you notice the people around you frequently beaming back at you with appreciation? Would you like to to become an agent of praise?
This week’s call to action: Carry out a praise exercise for the next week. Use the steps above as a guideline, and be intentional, specific, and energetic with your praise. You will have a positive impact on others, and find your own heart being filled with gratitude for all you have.
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(photo credit: asenat29)