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When, “you were great”, is far from good

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You have just finished a major overhaul of an assessment item or unit plan and your colleague responds: “Looks amazing. You are so good with stuff like that.”


Your inner monologue fires up. “Really? Amazing? I mean I’m generally happy with it but… amazing? Am I really good with stuff like this? I wonder which stuff they are talking about?”


Giving effective feedback is all in the detail – even when it comes to praise.


Just because you praise someone doesn’t mean you have helped them.


Poorly given praise can be harmful, even the general “You were great” line. You’re far better to make a comment that addresses something specific like: “I was impressed by the speed in which you got back to me”.


Praise that is generic and evaluates a person’s performance or character can do damage. It’s the same with criticism.


We’ve learned valuable insights into this area from thought-provokers such as schoolteacher and clinical psychologist Haim Ginott, clinical psychologist and founder of Centre for Nonviolent Communication Marshall Rosenberg and best selling author and ‘Fierce’ CEO Susan Scott.


They provide clear windows into the heart and mind of human interaction.


Their insights can help you deal with colleagues who can be extremely helpful and drive you nuts on the same day.


A small adaption in how you communicate makes all the difference.


Communication that involves respect, empathy, appreciation and specifics will always reduce interpersonal stress.


And what about those colleagues who consistently drive you mad and do very little that could warrant praise? That’s a blog for another time.


The following links provide more insights into this field: (The book Teacher and Child by Ginott is outstanding) (very engaging and insightful TED talk from Susan Scott)