Knowledge is power, said Francis Bacon. Are you putting your knowledge to good use? You know that if you praise someone for a specific behavior, the person is likely to show that behavior more in the future. Also, praising has the side-benefit of helping to maintain rapport. Whom did you praise today? For what? Did you praise someone in front of others? That has additional potential in that the observer can learn also to show the specific behaviour more in the future. For instance, yesterday I sent a department email to praise publicly five academics whose units received high student ratings. They likely felt that my comments showed appreciation for their hard and successful work. If others commend them too, they might try even harder in the future. At the least, I would expect the praise to help keep them working hard. Other academics observing the praise might see the potential for themselves to obtain appreciation of their teaching efforts. But I didn’t commend the academics so much to motivate them as to celebrate with them their success. Celebrating someone’s success is fun — that is another benefit of reinforcing desirable behavior. Finally, praising someone else’s good behavior often comes back as a matter of reciprocity. If I do something of note, the odds will be higher now that these individuals will join me in my moment of success.
So think about what you know. Use that knowledge, that power. Use it for good purposes.
John Malouff, PhD, JD
Assoc Prof of Psychology