Thursday, February 14, 2013


The other day my daughter made some bread for a dinner that we were hosting for some friends. After it came out of the oven, we both had a small piece to taste. When I told her that she had done well, she gave a simple thank you and went on her way without giving my words a second thought. However, when our guests complimented her on the bread, she glowed with pride and satisfaction. She even reminded me of their words the next day.

I have seen this same behavior countless times in my life and that of others. How well we accept praise or how much it means to us depends on who the praise comes from.
  • Strangers: It seems to me that praise from strangers, which typically elicits no other response than a polite smile, a kind reply, or cool nod, carries no lasting impact because these people have no personal connection with us. Just movie extras in the scenes of our lives.
  • Parents: With parents delivering praise upon their children, it can be easily dismissed as parents tend to lavish praise often on their children. Likely kids are jaded and inured to such words and come to expect them from their parents as part of their "job". They become desensitized to their words, and it seems that after a time, they no longer seek or require approval from their parents.
  • Friends: The praise of friends often has a strong impact on us because we want to impress our friends, we seek their approval, we want them to recognize us and appreciate us. It helps us to feel important, popular, and relevant.
  • Sweethearts: The same appreciation that we feel in receiving praise from our friends is ratcheted up to its most intense level when it comes from our sweetheart's in a new relationship. There is no sweeter wine on the tongue than when your lover tells you that you are the most important person in this world.
I suspect that this hierarchy, from strangers to sweethearts, has been very much the same for centuries. Regardless of era, nationality, ethnicity, and gender, the impact that praise has on us is very much the same on each of us depending on its source. Perhaps that is as it should be.