Don’t Generalize Your Compliments

Charlotte and I were discussing this a little while back…

When you are telling a child that they are good at something, you shouldn’t generalize, you should be specific. You shouldn’t say, “Oh you are very good at math.” Instead, say, “You did very well on that test.” If you say that they are very good at math, the first thing they will think of is how terribly they did on their last test…. they got one or two wrong. Along those lines, when you are speaking to an adult it works much the same way. If you say, “Oh Lee, you are really good at writing.” The first thing I think about is how difficult it is to write well and how much effort it takes (regardless that my final product may come out well). Instead, you can stress things like interest level and specific tasks… how well someone performed on a specific task and how they might do something more interesting and more different the next time. Don’t suggest they do something “harder” next time. Though an adult frequently associates “harder” with getting a pay raise, which would be a good thing. But that’s entirely another subject.

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