Do you ever offer praise to your kids, your spouse, or even your colleagues at work? Did you ever think that depending on what kind of praise you gave, you might be doing more harm than good? No, right? Praise is praise! Well, researcher and author, Carol Dweck, Ph.D., would likely beg to differ.
She completed a study with 5th graders, and the only difference in the praise they received after a series of test was whether the praise was for ability or effort. Ability praise is for innate talent, like “You’re so smart,” or “You’re really good at math.” Effort praise is for the hard work someone puts in to complete the task successfully. Ability praise implies we were successful because of some God-given talent, but effort praise emphasizes our hard work. Praising people for their hard work inspires them to take risks, learn from their mistakes, and move on. Praising people for their natural ability, however, makes them feel like they need to prove themselves, and any setback seems like a failure. Ultimately the type of praise changes the way we look at ourselves and our accomplishments.
Starting today, we all might want to think about how we dole out praise. Effort praise comes from a growth-mindset place. We can all put in more effort and we can all believe that. Ability praise implies we either have it or we don’t—I don’t believe our ability is fixed, but that is a discussion for another day. If you are going to shower someone with genuine praise, please point to their effort and not their innate ability; both of you will benefit from this small adjustment.