Received a bunch of replies to yesterday’s email entitled “False Confidence.”
One reader, PJ, directed me to You Tube videos that confirm what I stated about praise negatively affecting performance.
The video was NOT mere theory, either. A teacher worked with two different groups of students. One group was told how smart they were when they completed an exercise. The other group was not praised for being smart – only for how hard they worked.
Results: those who were praised for having “talent” did worse as the tasks got more difficult. In fact, the students were given a choice as to what type of tasks they’d like to tackle next.
The “you’re really smart” group chose easy tasks because when they completed them it would confirm their belief. But they did NOT want to take risks that might make them feel that they weren’t so smart after all.
The group who was praised for “effort” however, asked for the difficult assignments. They wanted to be challenged. Right or wrong didn’t matter to them because they enjoyed learning from their mistakes. They didn’t see mistakes as failure or an assault on their belief system of being “smart.”
Keep in mind that praise is NOT the enemy.
The enemy is praise that gets the student focused on unclear images. You cannot mentally picture how smart you are, or how talented, or how intuitive, blessed, and so on.
But you can mentally picture how hard you worked. You can remember and picture how much effort you gave.
Last week a man sent me an article that told the story of growing up in a family wherein he was never praised for being talented or special. He felt bad about this – until I told him that his family did him a favor.
He then recalled how he’s most alive and feeling positive about himself when he’s creating music and performing onstage.
In my own case, I’ve always been suspicious of the motives of those who use flattery. I’ve never been comfortable with it –
never liked it – found it a complete turnoff.
At one point I began to question this. I even thought there may be a self-image issue attached to my dislike of this type of praise.
Then the research comes out. Deep down I probably didn’t like it because I knew I had to go out and perform, regardless of the praise – and good today does not guarantee good tomorrow.
It all boils down, once again, to effort and desire and how much you’re willing to put into something – not how much talent you have to draw from.
I enjoy hearing your feedback on this.
P.S. For a riveting confirmation of the above, be sure to read my best-seller, Expect to Win – Hate to Lose.