What if you could learn how to avoid falling prey to one of the most common ways that people can harm their rapport with another person?
It’s called cognitive dissonance, and you can avoid it by being careful not to praise someone that doesn’t feel they deserve it. If you do, you may instantly lose rapport. You can learn more about rapport here: Adult Education Mastery.
Praise is a very powerful strategy if it is used in the appropriate circumstances. However, praise only works when the person believes that the praise is accurate and sincere.
If the person does not believe that, then the praise can often times be interpreted by the person as being patronizing or manipulative and can cause cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when the intentions of the person doing the praising and the perceptions of the person being praised are different. In other words, if you try to praise someone that doesn’t feel they deserve it, you can instantly lose rapport.
What About Praise?
On the surface, praise sounds great. In actuality, praise can cause resentment, if it is not used appropriately.
Why in the world is that?
It is because of the hidden or covert messages that are implied in praise.
- Praise, by definition is evaluative. It implies judgment.
- Praise implies that the person giving the praise is in a position to do so.
- Praise implies that the evaluation or judgment is appreciated by the party on the receiving end.
When most of us praise, we are really indirectly expressing our pleasure. We are simply hoping the other person will pick up on our pleasure as we give our evaluation.
But what if they don’t?
What if they resent our pleasure at what they have done?
Any person concerned about his or her weight knows the angry internal response when their spouse says, “You look like you’ve lost some weight,” or even, “Good for you, you’re starting to bulge less.”
Does this mean praise never works?
No. Praise can work, if it is done in the appropriate circumstances.
So, how do you know when to praise, and if you shouldn’t praise, what SHOULD you do?
What About Encouragement?
Encouragement, on the other hand, is the technique of choice to use with people who have low self-concepts.
Encouragement works very well with resistant people, for example, or people that are feeling very down on themselves.
The same is true with encouragement: it only works if the person wants to or needs to be encouraged. If he/she doesn’t, cognitive dissonance can occur.
To Praise or to Encourage?
Praise and encouragement each can fail to work if you try to impose a value judgment another person, which the person does not perceive as true. Again, this can create cognitive dissonance.
Wouldn’t it be great if you actually had a recipe for when to praise and when to encourage?
The “Neutral Statement” is just that.
In order to avoid cognitive dissonance, you can use the “Neutral Statement”.
It can help you determine whether to praise or encourage.
In practice, it is very simple. Simply look into the person’s eyes, and make a statement that begins with: “I’ve noticed…”
The key though, is to not impose any value judgment whatsoever. You don’t have to start it out with “I noticed”. You could just make a statement – as long as there is no value judgment.
This method will allow you to find out what the person thinks about the situation, and THEN you can decide whether it is more important to praise, encourage, or leave well enough alone.
For example, suppose you and your ten year old son just got back from a big soccer game and you want to praise him for scoring a goal, but you’re not sure if he wants the praise. You could say:
- “I noticed you scored a goal today.”
Notice what the three potential responses to this are.
- “Yes, it was awesome wasn’t it?” – He felt good about how he did – it’s time to praise.
- “Yeah, but we still lost.” – He felt disappointed by how he did – it’s time to encourage.
- “Yup.” – He felt neutral about how he did, or he didn’t say how they felt.
Now, it’s up to you to explore further. You could say something like:
- “How do you feel about that?”
If he says a response similar to #1 or #2 above, then it’s time to praise or encourage.
But what if he says, “Fine”?
Then it may be time to leave well enough alone.
Sometimes it’s best to avoid praise and encouragement, and simply say nothing.
The key difference is that you’ve allowed the person to determine how he feels about this, without imposing your feelings on the situation.
That will help you build more solid relationships in your life.
Wouldn’t it be great to have all the skills you need to build the relationships with the people in your life?
In sessions 4 and 5 of my Foundation program, you’ll learn how to literally “become their favorite” for the people in your life, both professionally and personally.
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