In Defense of Praise

Mike Kirkeberg of This Old Brain.net responds to Chris Brogan’s post In Praise of Praise with an admonishment not to praise his response. Chris tweets about Mr. Kirkeberg’s interesting logic, a praise which I find incredibly funny and quintessentially Chris Brogan.

Kirkeberg’s post bothers me with its insistence that it is wrong to make a judgement (which is a judgement in itself).

Praise, social rewards, positive feedback are JUDGMENTS.  No way around it.  Instead of “this works well, that doesn’t”  the world’s dichotomy becomes “good behavior and bad behavior.”

His argument goes something like this: Praise is wrong (a judgement) on two fronts. 1. If you praise someone, you must want something in return (a judgement). 2. Praise teaches others to expect rewards for their actions (a judgement) and pressures them to perform in order to receive rewards (a judgement).

When I praise someone I do expect something in return — good will. It’s part of living in a balanced, well-ordered society. When I am praised I do feel pressure to perform. It encourages me to consistently act with an attitude of excellence.

False praise is often used for manipulation, and unmerited praise will damage children’s development. However, sincere praise encourages others, makes social interaction more pleasant, inspires excellence and convicts ourselves of areas where we could do better.

Kirkeberg continues his complaint:

Praise and rewards give us the message that there are certain ways that are good, and by default, others that are not-so-good. If I am rewarded for something that I really wouldn’t want to do normally, the set up is for self-doubt, self-recrimination and living by societal values instead of my own.

Certain ways are good, and certain ways are more than just “not-so-good.” They’re bad. Sharing = good behavior; stealing = bad behavior. Nurturing = good behavior; harming = bad. Praising = good behavior; demeaning = bad. Love = good; selfishness = bad.

We need a dichotomy of good and bad behavior. We need societal values to guide our actions. When every one does what is right in his own eyes, we have chaos.

Is Praise a judgement? Absolutely. Does it convey opinions of worth and value? Yes. And that is a good and right thing.

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About James A Woods
Freelance Writer, Constant Learner, Family Man

2 Responses to In Defense of Praise

  1. TexasRed says:

    I agree. Praise, like criticism, is social education. I think we often seek out praise or criticism — some feedback — when we put our work out to others. We are looking for some reaction and generally adjust (or consider adjusting) or actions based on the sum of that feedback (at least from certain sources who we trust).

  2. adamtree says:

    I think you and I, as writers, easily see the value of praise and criticism. Both help us to make a better product.

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