Confidence Killer (4) - Insufficient Praise

Elaine Sihera

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Praise and encouragement are essential ingredients in our lives, yet the majority of people are denied them because we are inclined to praise if our confidence is high and to be critical if our confidence is low. But praise is important if we are to increase self assurance and self esteem.

To begin with, encouragement is crucial when we are young to help us to develop positive attitudes to life, to instil the fact that we are responsible for our own fate and to nurture the belief that anything is possible, if we are determined. However, many parents, who have been denied praise themselves, also deny it to their youngsters, often feeling embarrassed to tell their children how much they love them and how wonderful they are. Not getting this necessary feedback, and possibly being criticised most of the time, many youngsters grow up with the mistaken belief that their parents do not care about them too much. This robs them of the confidence and self-esteem to become positive, achieving adults.

In relationships the cycle continues. Wives and husbands (or partners/lovers) who have been denied praise for their honest efforts withhold it from their spouses too. There is often grudging acknowledgement of each person's domestic or professional role but no real praise for the personal contributions of each partner. Eventually, resentment at a lack of appreciation kills praise all round and helps negativity to thrive.

Work is even worse. Many people toiling away in organisations as small important cogs in big machines seldom get any praise for keeping that venture going. They are seen as ‘just doing their jobs’ and should really get on with it. Yet it takes very little commitment to complete a job in the manner expected. It takes much more to believe in what that organisation is doing and commit one's self to its ethos, ideals and objectives. It's actually a lack of praise and obvious appreciation which keeps employees from performing to their utmost.

Personal Value to Others
If you are working on a packaging line daily and no one ever comes and tells you how well you are packing the items, or fulfilling the orders, you will eventually see what you are doing as just a means to an end instead of something in which you could take greater pride and joy. If there were to be regular checks on how well you pack, or your opinions canvassed on how the packing could be improved, you would have a greater stake in the efficiency and service of that organisation. Your self esteem and commitment would gradually increase because your value to the company would be linked with its fortunes, not just superficially as an aid to the profits, but as an essential part of its future.

Those who are not used to praise might pretend it does not matter, but when we are singled out for any particular honour it is likely to be the greatest moment of our lives. No matter how embarrassed we are, or how we try to dismiss it, that moment will be one of the first to be recalled; the one we make special note of; the one we share with family and friends and the one we look back on and savour with a great deal of pride and joy.

Ask anyone who has met Royalty, Presidents or won an award, especially those Oscar winners, and they will tell you there is nothing like that moment of affirmation and reinforcement. It is a moment to cherish, a true acknowledgement of being ‘special’. To deny praise for a job well done ignores our special input, kills commitment, erodes confidence ad breeds apathy. There are too many managers who concentrate on the task to be done and not on the staff doing it. Yet if staff are left to concentrate on the job and the managers on their workforce – praising, helping, encouraging ad appreciating, then the three big Cs – commitment, contribution and competence – would dramatically increase.

ELAINE SIHERA (Ms Cyprah - and ) is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a CONFIDENCE guru and a consultant for Diversity Management, Personal Empowerment and Relationships. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise and Managing the Diversity Maze, among others (available on as well as her personal website). Also the founder of the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Men and Women of the Year Achievement Awards. She describes herself as, “Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"


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