Happiness researcher Shawn Achor has made a name for himself studying the many facets of happiness. His research has uncovered a startling connection between praise and happiness: the more praise you give, the happier you feel. That’s right: as nice as it feels to receive a compliment, your happiness gets an even bigger boost when you praise others.
Achor, who was a keynote speaker at Globoforce’s WorkHuman 2016 conference, offered several insights into the ways that people can increase the overall positive vibe at work. Achor’s research has found that people who provide “social support” (which includes praising the actions of others) were ten times more likely to be productive than peers who didn’t praise as often. Moreover, these “praise givers” were also more likely to be promoted. We need to not only learn how to accept praise, but we need to excel at giving it.
The act of offering praise is one way that people can build improved social connections. At WorkHuman Achor told us, “The greatest predictor of long-term happiness is social connection.” And I don’t think he was referring to how many followers you have on Instagram. The type of “connection” that Achor means is the genuine interaction you have with fellow human beings. “The breath, depth and meaning of our social relationships determines our long term happiness,” Achor shared with his audience.
During the Q&A portion of Achor’s session, a participant stood up and said, “What I love about praise, is that it’s free.” So true! It costs nothing but a bit of your time. Here are tips for making your praise helpful to others:
Make it sincere. Studies show that “empty” praise is more damaging than no praise at all, so find something you can genuinely talk about.
Praise specific observations. Research on goal attainment shows that people respond best to praise that is directed towards the mastery of a skill, so point out what someone is doing right, rather than a general, “Good job!”
Say “Thank you” along with your praise if it’s appropriate. Here are four ways to make sure your “thank you” hits the right notes.
Find the right time. Leave enough time to talk with the person. Nobody wants to feel like you did a “drive by” appreciation.
Pay attention to personalities. As country music singer Kellie Pickler likes to say, “Everybody likes their coffee different.” Give some thought to your colleague’s personality before you offer praise. For example, will she like to have a crowd witness her kudos? Or will she prefer a low-key, handwritten note?
Offering praise to others makes them feel good. It makes you perform better at work. It also builds a stronger connection between you and your colleagues. And all of that adds up to more happiness at work. So go on, what are you waiting for? Go find someone who deserves your praise—and give it to them!