People may not remember what you say or do. They will always remember how you make them feel.

Anxious to Praise

By Tom Welch

When I was taking my daily, cardio vascular, speed walk yesterday, I passed by a tennis court. There sat a father and his 9 or 10 year old son. As I approached, it became more and more evident that the father was engaged in an animated, loud, verbal hammering of his boy.

With tears in his eyes and a defeated look on his face, the young man just sat and listened. “You’re not even trying”, said his father. “I feel like I’m not even playing against anyone. You don’t care. You don’t go after the ball. You hit it in the net. You’re wasting my time and yours.”

It’s good I was walking fast because I’d heard enough. I wondered, was this a well-meaning father teaching his son a valuable life lesson? Or was this a dad sorely lacking in leadership and role modeling skills, who was severely criticizing his son?

About fifty minutes later, on my return route, I again passed by the tennis court. This time, the father and son duo were hitting the ball. The father’s tone was still loud and sarcastic. “Is this how you’re going to play on Saturday? You’re going to cry after every point! If I were your opponent, I’d be thinking, I’m going to kill this guy. He’s got no confidence. He can’t make one shot. This will be so easy.”

That verbal bomb convinced me. Those weren’t life lessons. Those were the words of an amateur. Berating, deflating words that do so much more harm than good. That practice session had nothing to do with instruction. It had everything to do with destruction.

How often do you encounter similar behavior at work? Or, how often do you catch yourself using this style of leadership? It makes no difference whether it’s home or work, confrontation and criticism seem to run rampant. That would be good news if it accomplished something positive, like helping someone improve or motivating them to perform better. But the effect is just the opposite.

Criticism is a demotivator. It undercuts self-esteem. An individual’s performance improves from a strong sense of self-worth, not a weak one. Do you want to energize people and drive them to exceed expectations? Replace criticism with recognition and appreciation.

This is not a new idea. So why do we complain and find fault so often while forgetting the value of praise? Maybe it’s just the way we’re wired. But with some conscious thought, you can change that behavior.

When Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1936, he emphasized the need to make others feel important. At that time, Carnegie made the point that only two men in the world were paid a salary of a million dollars. One of them was Charles Schwab.

In an effort to figure out why Schwab was worth so much money, Carnegie came right out and asked him. Schwab claimed it was his ability to deal with people. More specifically, he said, “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among the men the greatest asset I possess and the way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a man as criticisms from his superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a man incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.”

People may not remember what you say or do. They will always remember how you make them feel.

What really matters in life, both inside and outside of business, are the relationships you create with other people. You gain respect by giving it. When you connect with others via praise and recognition rather than belittlement and criticism, you can move mountains.

As a leader, you need to build your people’s self-esteem. Peers should work on building each other’s confidence. Moms and dads should focus plenty of time on their kids’ self-worth.

Think about your own individual reaction when someone says something nice about you. Do you ever tire of that praise? Neither do others. Take every chance you get to offer it.

Charles Schwab traveled the world helping Andrew Carnegie build his business empire. Towards the end of his working years, he proclaimed, “In my wide associations in life, meeting with many and great men in various parts of the world, I have yet to find the man, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.”

How about going out and making somebody’s day today. An encouraging word can make all the difference.

Tom Welch, America’s Career Coach, is a leadership and peak performance expert. He is an executive coach to global leaders who want to accelerate business results. Tom helps people and organizations excel. Contact Tom at or visit

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