Giving praise. Getting praise. It’s more complicated than you think. We want to be appreciated yet when we hear the words, “thank you” or “good job” we’re not sure how to respond. Suddenly we feel uncomfortable and, before you know it, we say the words, “It was nothing. Anyone would have done it.” In other words, we say, “no thanks”.
Why do we do this? Why do we minimize praise when we receive it?
We’re taught to be humble
Some of us may have been told to “stop showing off” or “stop bragging” when we discovered our abilities and started to talk about them. When I was younger (a lot younger), there was an implied line between talking about what you could do and bragging about it; however, it wasn’t clear where the line was drawn. The belief, at least by the people around me, was that it was wrong to draw attention to yourself. It was better to be humble.
We believe we aren’t doing anything special
When you do the same work every day, it may become so second nature that you start to believe that what you do is easy and anyone could or would do it. You don’t recognize that you have a special skill until you see evidence to the contrary. Here are a few examples:
We don’t receive a lot of praise
Since we may not receive a lot of praise, we don’t know what to do with it when we receive it. As a child, we received a lot of praise because everything we did was new and, quite frankly, expectations were a lot lower for us as children than they are for us as adults. If we received the same amount of praise now as we did when we were children, the praise wouldn’t feel genuine and would have very little meaning. That’s not to say that receiving praise is a bad thing. In fact, receiving praise for noteworthy performance can have a large impact on employee morale and ultimately productivity.
There are a variety of reasons why you may not be receiving the praise that you deserve. Here are a few examples:
The fact that we may not receive the praise that we deserve can be disheartening, especially if it’s because we have always been good at what we do and people have started to take that performance for granted. Eventually that great performance can slip just because there is no positive reinforcement for keeping it at that level especially if other employees are held to a different standard and are regularly receiving praise.
We always remember the negative
It doesn’t matter how many things we do right, we always remember the time when we made a mistake. This memory may cause us to downplay any praise that we receive. We may believe that what we’ve done is really just made up for a previous mistake. Some people keep a mental tally of the number of mistakes that they’ve made and are hard pressed to remember all their successes.
We have to change our beliefs
We have to learn to believe that what we do is special and it is okay to receive attention for what we do. When it is so engrained for us to feel otherwise, it may become easier to accept praise by focusing on the person who gives you praise. If you do not acknowledge praise by saying thank you instead of it was nothing, you are basically telling the person that they made a mistake because what you did was not praise worthy. Learning to accept praise will improve your confidence and will help reduce the negative feelings that can be associated with receiving praise.
The first step to feeling appreciated has to come from within. You have to recognize and appreciate your own attributes and skills before you can become comfortable when others thank you for a job well done. Praise should be something that puts a smile on your face instead of making you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what to do with it.
Over 30-years of writing experience, over five years as a cancer survivor, and a lifetime purveyor of wit and laughter.