Praise Can Block Communications

When anyone is sharing a problem, praise acts as a roadblock.

Try this experiment: Next time you are with someone who starts sharing a personal problem with you, send some strong, positive evaluations to the person. Then observe how your praise blocks communication. Listen particularly to the defensive responses you will undoubtedly get. You will see that praise often stops people in their tracks.

People who are unhappy or disappointed with themselves or the way things are going in their lives respond to any kind of positive evaluation as a denial of their true feelings of the moment—which, of course, are far from positive. This explains why praise often provokes such responses as:

“You don’t really understand.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you knew how I feel.”
“That’s easy for you to say.”
“I wish I could be as optimistic as you.”

Acknowledgments—in contrast to praise—don’t create this problem.

More details of the differences between praise and acknowledgments are in the book.