‘Virtues are acquired through endeavor, which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues can but encourage one’s own efforts.’
– Thomas Paine
For the final part of my series on praise I would like to discuss the act of praise in particular as it pertains to men. I’d also like to issue a warning about the efficacy of praise and the discretion of its use. And finally I’d like to issue a challenge to everyone to become a bit more active in their mindset of praise. We’ve got a lot to go over people so let’s get started.
The Manliness of Praise
Though I know the majority of my readers are women (as seems prevalent among the blogging community) I cannot ignore the fact that I am a guy and I feel that more men should be able to write and find community and find relevant posts for themselves. And though I may direct this portion towards men in particular I believe there could be benefit in everyone reading this, as it does not necessarily only apply to men and it can also help understand a bit of the male psyche.
I believe that while men may have no issues giving or receiving praise from women, we are particularly restrained when it comes to praising our fellow man. I know I have definitely shared more positive words with women than I have with men and I believe this could be true for many others. The causes for this I think are rooted within our views of masculinity and other men.
See for the most part, guys view others guys primarily as competition versus ally, which is usually the reverse for women. We are still tuned to want to hunt and provide and fear the scarcity of resources, including praise and success. For many men success, respect, and praise are all ‘points’ to be won and to offer someone praise is to ‘give up’ precious points. Yes, it is true that praising someone is to recognize that they particularly excel either in a particular skill, characteristic, or trait. But success isn’t a game to be won and simply because someone excels in something does not mean there are no opportunities for you to excel in the same thing or something else altogether. The truth of the matter is respect is something we have plenty of to go around and offering praise, while raising one person, does nothing to lower another. In fact the man you are praising most likely doesn’t even think to keep ‘score’ with you so this worry that prevents you from sharing some positivity with your fellow man is just keeping a valuable asset out of the hands of someone who might really need that affirmation.
Further, I challenge men to consider that it is actually the higher man who is able to comfortably, confidently, and consistently offer his fellow men words of praise. Humility, self-awareness, and the desire for improvement are all valuable traits to have in anyone, regardless of gender. Especially for a man who might be hesitant to offer a compliment because of lowering his value I say that it actually shows you to be someone who possesses these three traits. It is honorable for a man to be able to find excellence in others and respect and recognize them for it. Further it shows that he has thought about the traits he wishes to possess and it portrays it in his search for examples of such. Often times offering a kind word can also open the door to improvement. Praising someone for something you admire and wish to also possess can facilitate growth in the greatest way – by finding someone whose example you can follow either in the form of formal tutelage or in spirit.
I also believe that when it comes to men and the manliness of praise, praising another person in particular for their values also reflects positively on the one praising. Remember ‘it takes one to know one’? When you genuinely and sincerely and specifically praise someone for their values or virtues and it is convincing and thorough, you are also broadcasting that you too are someone who recognizes this trait and strives to possess it in its highest form as well. When you can honestly and without judgement or fear of feeling lesser or inferior recognize the great values and traits of others, you are indirectly glimpsing at the greatest version of yourself in various forms. It keeps you focused on your goals and directs your mindset to be seeking and improving on these aspects yourself.
A Warning on the Efficacy of Praise
As powerful and as positive as praise can be, when used improperly it can also be destructive and have negative effects. For one, remember that praise is first and foremost for the benefit of the one being praised. Any ulterior motive or agenda, wither implicit or explicit, detracts from the value, the worth, and the sincerity of the act. This can jade our opinion of others and make us feel wary or suspicious of any kind words. It also reflects a manipulative and less than honorable image for the one who uses praise for their own benefit. So always be forthcoming with your words and intentions. Sometimes we may also be tempted to offer praise even to someone who may not necessarily deserve it simply because we wish to be kind or perhaps because we think they need it. While the person may honestly need some words of encouragement, if you are not careful to choose something truly noteworthy and simply make something up, you could make this person feel worse than if you had said nothing at all. Remember that the efficacy of accepting and internalizing praise is also predicated on if we believe that we truly deserved it or not. If they don’t deserve praise for that particular thing but you still wish to say something positive, choose something else. Undeserved praise serves no one in any way. And finally, in regards to back-handed compliments, remember that a compliment should be a compliment and an insult should be delivered to the front of the person, and not to their back. If someone is feeling particularly proud or excited about something and you decide it’s up to you to restore ‘balance’ with your back-handed compliment you could seriously damage their self-esteem or their enthusiasm. Praise positively, peeps.
Yes, I believe it is time we all put our money where our mouths are, so I am issuing this challenge to you all for the weekend with the understanding that I will of course also be engaging in it as well.
The challenge is simple. It deals with changing our negative mindsets to find the positives in our every day and then actively sharing what we see. Over the course of the weekend, preferably once a day, compliment the following people in your life:
- A family member or friend: This is the easiest one of course, but it is also a great way to strengthen your relationship with the ones you love.
- A co-worker: For most of us these are the people we will spend the second most amount of time in our lives with so it certainly wouldn’t hurt to improve relations and morale with your office mates.
- A business you patronize: In a world of TripAdvisor and Yelp and viral reviews it’s a shame that we are more likely to share complaints and negative experiences over positive ones. Your local business thrives on word of mouth and needs the support of the community to survive. Try to spread a good word about a business you frequent not only on some form of media but with friends, family, or even just let them know you think they’re doing a great job.
- A young person or beginner in some field: Remember from the early on in the series that the young and the novices are the ones who benefit from positive encouragement the most. So take some time to provide that boost of confidence they need to believe in themselves.
- A stranger: Perhaps one of the hardest to do and yet the easiest in terms of finding something to compliment. Brighten someone’s day with as simple a remark as ‘I love your tie or shoes or etc’. Try to be specific to show that you are genuine and paying attention.
Thus concludes ManVsLoneliness’s seminar on praise. Hahah. I hope it helped in some way and I hope you take on this challenge.
Man: 81 Loneliness: 20