One of the nasty elements of predatory behaviour is false praise. Predators excel at the art of flattery, charming their victims with ease. Those lured into the predator’s trap emerge understandably jaded on the whole subject of encouragement, which is a terrible shame: like an ironic twist on the story of the boy who cried wolf, sometimes a charming compliment is not the hallmark of a predator, but an earnest gift meant to please rather than manipulate.
It is sensible to suspect compliments that are given too freely by strangers, but we all should be ready to encourage those around us, not to lure them into psychological servitude as the predator does, but to develop the best in them.
Rachel Bernstein told me that in a workshop she asked adults to remember a time when they had been encouraged at school. The majority could not remember even a single instance, but they readily remembered being discouraged.
There is no doubt that honest praise is a fuel that helps us to develop competence. Perhaps a good New Year’s resolution would be to find someone to encourage at least once a week. Not for gain or influence, but to help others to blossom. Happy New Year!
What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about being encouraged or praised that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!