The most tragic thing about praise is that it shortcuts one of the most important human needs – meaningful contribution.
More than almost anything else human beings want to know that they are contributing, that they are helping in some way, that what they do has purpose in supporting life.
Praise gives some hint that you are on the right track, but it misses the mark on two points.
One, it’s a judgment. If I get to judge you as smart today, then I also get to judge you as stupid tomorrow. It sets up a dynamic in which you base who are on what others judge you to be.
Two, with praise I deny you valuable feedback about how you contributed to life. You don’t get to learn what behaviors meet what needs.
When a student praises me, “Great class. You’re an excellent teacher.” I feel happy because I know I contributed to them. I know some of their needs were met.
When I can ask in return, “What parts of the class were helpful? What needs did that meet for you?” and they answer with specific observations and needs, I feel a deep sense of satisfaction. Now I have learned what strategies were effective for meeting particular needs and I experience a deeper connection with my student.
In NVC we can always return to the four components: observations, feelings, needs, and requests. But they don’t have to sound like classical giraffe. Below are some examples for giving feedback in “street giraffe”.
Teacher to student:
“Yea, Tom, hearing you bring together those two science concepts, I feel excited because I see that I’ve helped you learn this material. How did you come up with that idea?”
Parent to small child:
“Wow, Clarice, when I see how you have folded those towels, I feel happy because I like how neat they all look. Thank you.”
Supervisor to employee:
“I noticed that every day this month you have arrived to work early so that you have to time to settle in and be ready to work when its time. Seeing that creates a sense of trust and dependability that allows me to relax and enjoy our work together. Thanks for being here.”
In an intimate relationship:
“Babe, I really appreciated your listening tonight. When you fed back what you heard me say and then shared what it brought up for you, it helped me to get clear and also to feel closer to you. Just wanted to let you know.
This week notice when you offer praise.In the moment or later, translate your praise into giraffe using the examples above as your guide.