Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance….

‘Happiness lies within. It has nothing to do with how much applause you get or how many people praise you. Happiness comes when you believe you have done something truly meaningful.’ – Martin Yan


I have a theory that there are 3 types of people in this world; people who are motivated by praise, people who are embarrassed by praised and people who pretend to be embarrassed by praise but secretly like it.

I am, as may be glaringly obvious, am someone who is highly motivated by praise. I’m the person who if I get 99 compliments and an insult, I’ll dwell over that one insult and forget the nice stuff. I’ve also always been a person who thinks other people’s thoughts and opinions are more important than my own and I got away for a while with convincing myself that was just because I was super open minded and like to hear loads of different points of view. Sadly, the older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve been able to admit to myself that that’s a load of hogwash and the real reason is I don’t have very much self confidence. In fact I don’t believe in myself at all, so I need to be reassured that someone else does.

I love getting praise so I’m really good at giving it. I say thank you and how much I appreciate help all the time, because I, like everyone, assumes everyone if just like me and likes getting praise. It never crossed my mind until recently that to people who aren’t as comfortable with praise as me, can find my constant praise insincere. So not only is everyone not like me, but it seems I’m also learning that I’ offending people too! It’s a kudos minefield! I happen to think praise is very important. I will go to the ends of the earth to help someone if I think they will appreciate it. It’s nice to feel appreciated and I think it helps to build relationships and boost morale. If people feel valued they’ll work harder, right?

A present I got recently for helping a mate out with their dissertation - made me feel totally awesome!

A present I got recently for helping a mate out with their dissertation – made me feel totally awesome!

So, bearing in mind all of the above, it stands to reason that it would be just my bloody luck that in my executive assisting career, I’ve been matched with people who give no performance related feedback whatsoever. Their moto is, ‘I’ll tell you when you do something wrong’ all other times I’m just to assume that I’m doing a good job. And that’s not very easy is it? It’s a cross to bear for a PA or Exec Assistant that we need to be the flexible ones. We’re the ones to make he or she who must be obeyed’s life easy. ‘Silent running’ is a popular phrase in my office, we to all the backstage stuff so that the star of the show looks great. And for the most part I accept that’s my role. But sometimes I find myself thinking ‘what about me? What about what I need?’. So I asked. I asked for feedback and I got the response above (although the actual phrase verbatim was ‘when you fuck up,  I’ll tell you, so you know, don’t fuck up’. Great, crystal clear 👍

Another problem I have is, I’m not very good a picking up subtle forms of praise. So when my boss asked me to write a report for the first time and came back to they and said ‘I’m actually amazed at how good this was, a surprisingly good first effort’ the only thing I thought was ‘I’m not a moron you know’ and sulked for the rest of the afternoon. I also asked once why I’d been asked to take some minutes for a meeting over anyone else (I hate doing minutes with a passion usually reserved only for Justin Beiber) and they said ‘when you have Alan Shearer on your team you pass him the ball’ but it was such a tenuous analogy that I didn’t get it at first. When the penny did finally drop, I just thought they were buttering me up because they know how much I hate doing minutes. So I don’t really help myself because I never believe praise is genuine even in the few times I’ve had it, and I don’t want to ask for it because then you never know whether it’s genuine or they’re just saying nice things because you asked and they’ve been put on the spot.

Two bits of advice I’ve received about praise recently have stuck in my mind and I shall pass these words of wisdom on to you now:

1. Was from my friend Carol, who said people need to self congratulate more, if you’re happy by the way something turned out, or you feel you did a good job, tell yourself that, especially if you don’t get it readily from others. I find this very difficult, it’s much easier for me to give myself a hard time but I’m working on it; giving myself a mental high five when I achieve something or someone says thanks.

2. Was from one of Patricia’s psychology magazines; I read which said if you’re not getting recognition or praise in one area of your life, and praise it what you seek, then you need to find it somewhere else. Hence my addiction to all things social media, and indeed this blog. I feel I don’t get any praise at work, but I do get lots of praise here, from friends, people I work with who’ve read it, I even got part time press officer job out of it. If that’s not a compliment then I don’t know what is. It feels good when people tell me they enjoyed what I’ve written or laughed at what I’ve tweeted (i find a simple retreat the ultimate compliment), it fills the praise less hole left in my soul by work.

It’s taken me a long, long time to realise that not everyone is like me, and though I think it’s perfectly natural to think the world would be a much easier place if everyone thought the same way you did, then I’d never have those special conversations with my nearest and dearest that centres my chi and puts a fresh perspective on my inner craziness. Here’s what some of my friends think about praise and what it means to them;

‘I love praise, being a gal of not a great deal of confidence it’s the boost I need some days. And it’s nice to know the work you’re doing is appreciated. When my manager recently thought ‘let’s cut down email traffic and cut out saying thanks’ I thought it was cack; it’s nice to say thanks. To be honest I don’t think it’s ever embarrassed me because I think I deserve the praise,, might sound big headed but it’s true! I love helping people at work and at home and just hearing a ‘cheers for that’ just reaffirms it for me. I was needed, my work does matter’ – Ang

I like praise. I like to give and receive praise! At work I need praise, more so recently as I’m only 6 months into post so I really needed that reassurance that I was doing ok, when I might have been doing something wrong. I would rather someone tell me straightaway if I was doing something wrong….otherwise I’d just keep on doing it wrong and be blissfully unaware while everything else would be thinking I was rubbish at my job! I like to know I have done a job well. I’m not too fussed at this point in my life/career about if people like me or not but I do want them to think I can do my job. (note, someone not liking me when I was younger would have really upset me, I would have taken it personally and thought that there was something wrong with me). Not getting feedback makes me antsy but I am comfortable asking for it most of the time. I don’t like overly gushing praise which I have had recently – it made me think less of it and doubt its sincerity.I am way more comfortable getting praise then I ever used to be actually, it took me a long time to be ok with just accepting any praise and saying thank you. I think I used to be really embarrassed and deny it, and make some self-deprecating comedy comeback’ – Steph

‘I’m rather ambivalent towards it I think. I think it’s nice to get when it matches your own feeling of having done something praise-worthy. I guess it can be a bit embarrassing in some contexts but I rarely am faced what that situation! I don’t feel much need for more, it’s quite tricky to think of examples. I don’t think I’m good at giving it out, I make a conscious effort at work to say thank you with praise mixed where I can, but I’m not sure what anyone takes from that. I think the higher your standards and consistency the less likely you are to get praised because it becomes normalised’ – Dave

So I’m still learning. I’m trying hard to give myself a virtual pat on the back when I think, scratch that, when I know I’ve done a good job. I also like Dave’s take on it, that actually, I am doing a good job, and the fact that i’m doing a good job has just become the norm and what’s expected of me. I would also urge that if you think someone has done a good job, tell them, it takes two seconds and it can make a massive difference – you might even make someone’s day!

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