When we praise people, especially children, we often praise those things they have no control over such as their intelligence, good looks or talents:
‘You look gorgeous.’
‘You are so clever.’
‘You are so creative.’
However, Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychology professor, has discovered that with this type of praise children learn to shy away from challenges and become less able to face difficulties.
On the other hand, when children are praised for the processes they engage in – how hard they work, the strategies they use or their persistence – they became more willing to persevere and take on challenges.
It makes sense. When we are encouraged to rely on talent and intelligence, we do not have to exert ourselves. Then, when faced with a challenge that requires more than our talent and intelligence can provide, we have not learned to persevere, and we give up more easily.
Those who are praised for hard work and persistence are being encouraged not to believe in shortcuts and magic wands. A new challenge is seen as no different from the old: more hard work, more perseverance.
Isn’t it annoying when you slave over a report, push yourself in training for a race or spend hours finishing a painting, and someone says, ‘You have such talent, you are so gifted. You are lucky it comes so naturally to you’?
Think about your words of praise.
Focus on the processes – hard work, strategies, focus, persistence.
Not, ‘You’re so clever,’
‘I love how you’ve put this together.’
‘You summarised that so well, thank you.’
Make praise work for you.
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