(A speech written to present at Toastmasters Kerikeri prior to the 2020 General Election.)

E rangatira ma, e hoa ma, e manuhiri ma – Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.  

It may be Level 2 but I’m on the campaign trail today – I’m here to explain 3 downsides to using praise and compliments before I explain what I am  campaigning for !      

Debate Election Vote - Free vector graphic on Pixabay

‘I like to praise people ‘ you say.  Well, here’s 3 reasons you are supporting the wrong party!   

  1. Praise is highly addictive _ Receiving praise releases the happiness hormone, dopamine.
    • Dopamine is a highly addictive compound –  Facebook ‘likes’ were designed around this fact.  
    •  Humans start to seek out praise – think people asking you how they look – they they don’t require an honest answer, they seek a quick dopamine fix!
    •   A person’s feeling of self-worth starts to rely on what others say…

2. Praise is manipulative

The goal of praise in hierarchical structures – schools, organisations, family homes – is often to achieve compliance.

 You are praised when you do what someone else decrees is the ‘right thing’. 

 “The use of Praise and compliments is a violent form of behaviour because the relationship of the praiser to the other person is one who sits in judgement – it’s a ‘power-over way of relating.”

Marshall Rosenberg, Clinical Psychologist and founder of the global NVC movement

Using praise as a Reward for doing the right thing may work for Pavlov’s dogs and Skinner’s rats but humans are more complex. 

-When people sense they are being manipulated and their own needs don’t matter – they disengage.  Productivity drops.   

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3. Praise reduces our ability to take risks .

“  Kids who get too much praise are less likely to take risks, are highly sensitive to failure and are more likely to give up when faced with a challenge.”

Carol Dweck, Professor, Developmental Psychology  

This is highlighted in Stanford University research on 10 and 11 year old school children who were divided into 2 groups and given a simple IQ test.

Both groups performed equally well but Afterwards, One group was praised up for how very smart they were, the other, told their results were due to their hard work they’d put in. 

Offered a second slightly harder test, many of the group praised for being smart didn’t want to do it whereas 90% of the group praised for effort wanted to give it a try. 

The experiment has been repeated with many different socio economic levels but the results on the second test are always the same – those who believed their results were due to their effort performed significantly better. 

There’s a common thread here – between praise junkies, workers who stop when their boss turns her back, and kids who won’t take risks.  Praise lessens the reasons for doing your best for its own sake.  It disconnects people from the deep life-giving awareness a person gets that what they have done has enriched the life of others.

That’s why I’m campaigning for the ‘sincere gratitude party!

As a party member , for example, rather than message  ‘such an awesome gift’ to someone the day after they gave me a pair of socks with flowers on – “I’m wearing my nice happy socks! Makes me smile when I glance at my feet. “

In Toastmasters, in place of ‘Awesome speech’, a feedback slip not with ‘your speech was great’ but “Your witty speech introduction gave me the first laugh I’ve had all week!  I so needed that after a difficult few days!      

Sincere gratitude Rosenberg suggested has 3 parts:   turn sign around

  1. ACTION What has the person done that adds to our wellbeing?  
  2. NEEDS What need of ours has their action met ?
  3. JOY What feelings of pleasure do we have because of their action.   

My new party has a single policy –  to sweep aside Facebook likes and phrases such as words like ‘well done’ and ‘awesome’ in favour of genuine appreciation.

We believe that for people to flourish, its time to shift judgements –  both negative criticisms and positive compliments – out of the way we talk with each other.    

2020 Election Campaign - Platform Trust

Ok, Its time for a poll…    If you still  support praise and compliments, raise your hand.

Raise your hand if you still support praise and compliments!

If you are in favour of a shift to sincere gratitude, now raise yours.

Ok, looks like I need to give you a chance to try it out before you decide whether to join my party!

  • over the next week, would you be willing to substitute sincere gratitude – SHARING HOW THEIR SPECIFIC ACTION –  MET YOUR NEEDS AND GAVE YOU JOY –  for your normal  off-the-cuff words of praise and plethora of Facebook ‘likes ?       

I’ll be out continuing my campaign – perhaps you’ll join me?      


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