Sunday, 25 January 2015

In Praise of Praise

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Did someone in your life do something well this week? A partner, child, colleague, shop assistant,  hairdresser, gas fitter, trainee, student or pupil? Were you pleased?

Yes? Did you tell them?

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I don’t know why it sometimes seems hard to praise people. Perhaps we’re afraid of sounding patronising, or pointing clumsily to the relationship in which our approval is something they need. Perhaps the person in question has worked for you for ages and you don’t really think about what they do any more. Maybe you think your teenager doesn’t need your little hurrahs the way he did when he was a child. Perhaps you think it goes without saying that you’re pleased the gas fitter came on time and that your boiler is working again.

But we all need approval. Going through life without praise is soul-sapping. It shrivels our self-esteem and turns our keen efforts into drudgery that makes no sense.

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A few words of praise from someone we respect can give us the motivation to succeed.

My writing mentor is always encouraging, but she’s measured and doesn’t gush. She points out every flaw, and so she should; that’s what I’m paying her for. But it meant all the more when my latest chapters came back with more positive comments than I have seen before.  Words like ‘brilliant’, ‘excellent’ and ‘lovely’ described elements of the story I’ve been working on for so long.

 I still need to watch out for ‘a tendency to over-write’, and this is pointed out in detail in her report on each chapter. But that’s fine; I can work on that. I’m learning. My writing is getting better. It has attracted the praise of someone whose opinion counts. I can’t wait to get on with it and continue the push towards improvement.

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So, thanks, Lorna! The cheque’s in the post! No, I mean, it actually is in the post...

This comes at a time, let us say, when approval is lacking in other areas of life. Take note – because we all have the power to make someone feel appreciated. Praise matters. We all need it. It makes effort feel worthwhile.