Never Underestimate the Value of Praise

September 13, 2013

By: Camille Piner

“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something” – Max Lucado

Usually when people want to increase their performance, they focus on improving their weaknesses to match their other abilities. The article I read this week claims that doing this simply makes a person “average”[1]. To set yourself apart from the rest, it is more powerful to identify your strengths and make the most of them. Only you have your particular set of strengths, and leveraging those to create greater good can make you positively unique.

My CPO homework for this week was exciting and intriguing. The assignment was to email 20 people I know, asking them to identify what they see as my best strengths and describe scenarios in which they’ve seen me demonstrate them. It felt slightly awkward when choosing the email recipients because I didn’t want them to think that I was self-centeredly asking for praise. However, when I got the responses, it appeared that most people actually enjoyed giving me positive feedback.

The range of strengths that were mentioned surprised me, yet they were all connected. I tried to categorize them into themes, and I came up with the following two underlying strengths: logical, realistic, and practical thinking, and encouraging others to reach their potential.

I work as an Academic Peer Advisor for Freshmen Orientations, and I believe I can intentionally utilize these strengths in that context. My job is to teach students how to navigate the course guide, how to structure a schedule, and how to pick classes that build the foundation of their college career. Rather than listening to the student who says, “I am pre-med, what classes should I take?” and spitting out the typical pre-med requirements, I have been stepping back from this mindset and asking the students what they enjoy learning. “What classes did you like most in high school?” “What do you like to do outside of class?” I even begin the session with an icebreaker that includes their favorite activity from high school that they’d like to continue in college. This way, I better understand what they enjoy, and can recommend classes that I think will allow them to flourish.

Using my skills in this way while I am advising allows me to leverage my unique strengths and makes me more confident while on the job. Now that I know that others recognize these strengths in me, I have an underlying confidence in my abilities and can concentrate on my strengths.

Overall, people may remember criticism, but they respond to praise. It’s a proven fact. Why do we not share appreciation of others more often[2]? I challenge you to recognize and praise the strengths of those around you, and also find them in yourself. Find the areas where you can have the most impact, and channel your confidence and strengths into your work and play, and see where it takes you.

[1] “How to Play to Your Strengths” (Roberts et. al.).

[2] See for a TEDx example of shared praise.