Keeping Your Ears Open and Mouth Shut

Of course, my favorite subject in High School was Recognition Skills. Being positive comes as second nature to everybody and none of us ever focus at all on faults. Regrettably, there the fairy tale must end. Knowing how to complaining, it seems, is a far more advanced skill than praising and many people find it challenging to be merely positive. To some it seems as if it is a daily requirement to at least offer one crushing blow to anyone that they can.


It is often said that, in communication, we get the response we deserve. Bear this in mind when you ask someone to take on an additional task. Listen to the words that you use. Do you apologize, saying:

“I’m really sorry that I have to drop this on you”

Do you upset someone by saying:

“Whether you like it or not you’ll have to do this by 5pm.”

Do you identify with the person and say:

“I know this is a pain, but it really needs to be done.”

Or maybe you say:

“Poor you! This extra work probably means overtime.”

Do you motivate them by saying:

“Hey, you’re just the person who can help me! I need this urgent job to be done today, and I was thinking you’d be the best person to get it completed accurately and on time.”


No prizes for guessing which approach gets a more energetic response. Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm and if you can implant a few pieces of recognition into your request without sounding sarcastic you’ll stand a better chance of getting a motivated performance.


When you are actually praising someone, try to tell them how you feel. “It made me proud that I work for the same company when I saw you handling that complex customer problem”, means so much more than, “Good job, keep it up.” “I wish I had your comic timing. Your ability to make people laugh and feel motivated to get on with the toughest and most unpleasant of jobs leaves me in awe.” says more than “I’m impressed, carry on, dude!”


Also make an attempt to acknowledge that you really did understand that the behavior was appropriate; “I was especially impressed when you offered to call them to update them on progress at the end of the day. That’s a great standard to work to.”


Managers can develop a crippling disability when they use language variously known as “verbal diarrhea”, “let me tell you what you mean” and “that’s not the way I’d do it”. As people climb the management ladder there is a tendency for them to lose the listening skill and to gain an add-on to their verbosity skills. This is not surprising as they are probably expected to talk for most of the day; however when it comes to gathering information to promote informal recognition, keeping your ears open and your mouth shut is an essential skill.


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