NLP - Criticism Ratio
While not strictly NLP, this article is very useful and very much in
the spirit of what we do.
It has been studied and documented that we hear thirty-two items of
criticism for each item of praise! It starts when we are babies, "Ooooh,
your diapers stink!" or "Can't you keep out of trouble for
even one minute?" Sure, we may not have known what the words meant,
but even as babies, we felt the emotions behind those words. We grew up
with much more negative input than positive. It is no surprise that we
do the same thing to our friends, associates, and children.
What if it were reversed? What if you started offering genuine praise
to anyone and everyone, every time you see something praiseworthy?
At first, people would probably think you flipped. But they would
also enjoy the compliments. Eventually, they may catch on, or maybe
they'd just start following your example, because people do tend to
emulate what surrounds them.
The big picture results are obvious. Eventually we'd have a world in
which everyone hears how well they do things, how nice they look, how
their presence is so enjoyable, and so on. And, these people would have
more confidence in themselves.
Would they? Of course. If from a young age, you were told that you
are good, and that you can accomplish what you like, you'd make the
effort. You'd know that you can make a difference, that you can have
what you want, that you deserve a good life, that it is worth your time
to practice your skills. In such a world, if it existed, you'd have a
much more successful and happier life. So would everyone, and at no
cost, other than the energy to open your mouth and say kind things to
everyone, and hold your tongue when what you have to say is not so
Such is not the world we live in now. But you can change it yourself.
Not all by yourself, but you can start it in your sphere of influence,
and people will catch on. You can influence your friends, your family.
They will influence their friends and associates. Perhaps sooner than
you think, everyone will start doing it. We see it happen with slang.
Remember when "bad" meant bad? That transition happened fairly
quickly. And so can this, because this, too, is simply a matter of
You may gain from this sooner than you'd think. Before the whole
world changes to this new thirty-two-to-one praise to criticism ratio,
it will help you in your life. As an example, if you start praising your
mate much more than you scold, what will happen? Will your mate become
lax? Perhaps dinner will be late, the library books will be overdue, the
kitty pan won't get changed when it should? Maybe, a little bit, at
first. Can you stand it? More important, can you keep quiet, and let it
happen, while you go on practicing your 32-to-1 game?
I think so, especially when you know that soon your mate will start
copying you, consciously or not. Then, you'll start feeling good, when
your loved one tells you that your hair looks nice, or that you are such
a great cook, rather than telling you that the lawn needs mowing really
bad. Imagine a peaceful home life, where you know your mate likes the
way you look, the way you cook, where you feel no pressure to mow the
lawn right now. Why, you'd probably want to mow that lawn, just because
you'll get praise for it.
Let's look at the bigger picture. It is a smaller world than you
think. Within seven levels of acquaintance, almost everyone knows
everyone else. This means that you may have a friend, who has a friend,
who has a friend, and so on, who knows Dolly Parton, Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Scott Hamilton, and so on. So, you can influence these
people, and all people. Practice 32-to-1, and soon your friends will be
doing it, and their friends will be doing it, and eventually politicians
will be doing it, and we'll have no more wars.
For best results, make sure your praise is always sincere. Contrived
is embarrassing for giver and receiver.
Some people have a hard time receiving compliments, after all they
don't get them very often. Therefore, at first, keep your compliments
small and simple, using only a few carefully chosen words.
People are more comfortable with compliments about things they are
not known for. The professional musician would rather hear that you
respect her political views, than that she plays her instrument well.
Another way to comfortably praise people is to offer compliments
which they don't have to work to acknowledge. If you praise someone
noisily in a group of people, the recipient then feels he has to offer
some sort of thanks, or deny it, equally loudly. On the other hand, if
you slip praise into the middle of a paragraph, then the recipient can
have the compliment without obligation. Here's an example:
"John, Sally's a great cook, look what she did with this potato
salad! Sally, is there any more in the kitchen?"
Relayed praise is the best of all, worth ten times as much as direct
praise. For instance, if you wrote a song that I liked, but Fred told
you that he enjoyed it when I played it for him, you'd be more pleased
than if I simply told you I liked the song, right?
Relayed praise can be amplified even further, if it comes from
someone noted in the field. If I showed your song to a famous
songwriter, who then told you it was really excellent, that would be
even better than if plain old Fred said so.
Asking someone for their opinion or experiences is always a great way
to let them know your respect their thoughts. And again, if done in the
presence of others, the effect is magnified.
Be on the lookout for backhanded compliments. There is a strong
temptation to say something like, "I really admire your
intelligence. That's why it surprises me that you have so little
understanding of our budget." This is not a compliment. We know
that but we are so used to correcting, offering critique, that if we
don't pay attention, these things slip out.
A good test is to see if you plan to gain anything when you praise
someone. If you decide that you have nothing to gain, you aren't trying
to get someone to fix your flat tire, to change into a better looking
outfit or to clean up their room, then your compliment is probably a
Gossip currently follows the same thirty-two-to-one ratio. Gossip
hurts the people who do it, almost more than the people about whom they
talk. The reason is that someone who gossips can't be trusted.
Therefore, as their reputation builds, they are trusted with less and
less information. Really severe gossips have few quality friends,
because they have a hard time finding people desperate enough to risk
spending time with them.
My recommendation with gossip, then, is to reverse its ratio also.
Thirty-two times more often than you negatively gossip, look for good
things you can tell others about your friends, family and associates.
"I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of
- Benjamin Franklin. If it worked for him, it ought to work for us.
"I have yet to find the man, however exalted his station, who
did not do better work and put forth the greater effort under a spirit
of approval than under a spirit of criticism." -Charles
Schwab, who was paid a million dollars per year for his management