In Praise of Praise

At home, at work, or in love, why compliments both big and small help us all.
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Support & Sincerity

Kris, 33, of Laramie, Wyoming, recently got back in touch with an old friend. "She's been showering me with praise about what kind of friend I was and person I am, and every time I read her e-mails, I am brought to tears," says Kris. "We hear that kind of stuff so rarely."

It's true. We might get a blip in what-you-mean-to-me around the holidays, but at other times, it's easy to feel as if people -- including ourselves -- really do tend to withhold applause. Why? Because people, especially women, are weird about praise. We often think it but don't give it, crave it but then don't buy it when we hear it.

Still, praise -- real praise, or what some experts call "recognition," to distinguish it from compliments that are either emptily polite or fawningly insincere -- can be more than just "nice"; it fuels motivation and inspires lasting good will. "Praise builds community," says Bonnie Jacobson, PhD, professor of psychology at New York University. "The more you tell someone you like what they've done, the more they feel warmly toward you, and the more you're aware of your warm feelings toward them. You create an 'all in this together' feeling of support and enjoyment."

If praise is so positive, why is giving and receiving it a challenge for some? What kind of praise is most important at home, at work, and with friends? How can you make giving and receiving praise -- real praise -- a practice?

Continued on page 2:  Practice What You Praise


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