The Damage Done by False Praise
We all want to have our accomplishments appreciated for what we have achieved, and many find it motivating. Knowing this, we try to encourage others through praise and also hope that it may motivate them. The problem is, it may do the opposite.
The value of honest rewards…
Clearly, if someone has made a major accomplishment then an appropriate level of praise and appreciation can help the person feel that their efforts have been noticed and that they have done well. This can provide a good boost to self-esteem and improve the relationship. However, if our level of praise is out of step with the level of accomplishment then problems can occur. For instance if someone has made a major accomplishment and we give them only faint praise, they can feel underappreciated or that their accomplishment was not worth making.
… Is tainted by dishonest ones
Significantly, this can also apply if we give more praise than the accomplishment merits. Firstly, it sends a false signal about what we really want from the person or what we find acceptable, which can be confusing. Secondly, it is essentially patronising – it signals that we really can’t trust the other person to judge the value of their work accurately. Thirdly, it gives us nowhere to go if the person does actually make a major achievement. Fourthly, it signals that the person can’t handle the truth. Lastly, it ultimately makes us feel like frauds for giving more praise than we think the accomplishment is really worth.
All of these factors directly contribute to lower self-esteem, not higher.
People sometimes choose psychotherapy to help with issues of self-esteem. One of the things that does contribute to healthy self-esteem is building a sense of honesty about what our merits and accomplishments really are, and what we really mean to other people. This then becomes a firm bed-rock to build upon.
– Tim Hill
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