Posted by: Philip J Fauerbach, LHMC 5/11/2020
Have you recently caught you partner doing good? Believe it or not, our praise does matter. It is very important in building a relationship based on trust, value and commitment.
What happened when you last made a request of your partner, such as doing the dishes or paying a bill, and they actually did it? How did you respond?
Did you praise them or offer a sarcastic comment like, “it’s about time they did it?”
A Compliment vs. Condescension
When we get a compliment or praise, we feel good about ourselves. It’s nice to be recognized for something we did, especially if we did it well. Knowing that you are pleased with their actions increases the odds your partner will want to do them again or repeatedly, as they know you will have a positive response. This makes for a win/win environment, your partner feels good for receiving recognition and you feel good for recognizing. We call this the foundation of the relationship developing “positive emotional overtone,” the corner stone for trust and commitment.
Now, compare that with a condescending remark. How do you think they will feel then? Those types of remarks only de-motivate your partner and begin a process of resentment in you. They create mental obstacles and hard feelings that prevent your partner from wanting to fulfill your request. And in the long run, condescension damages the relationship too. Thus, setting a “lose/lose” scenario and the development of a “negative emotional overtone,” creating an environment of disconnection and disinterest.
Knowing You Value Them
Another reason why praise is important is that it reminds our partner that we value them. This is different than loving them. When we value someone, we appreciate their work and effort. In turn, our partner feels that they are making an important contribution to the partnership or family. Feeling valued we are motivated to continue productive behaviors going forward. This goes under the guidance of “small things often.” It is the small connections that strengthens the bond, much more that exotic vacations or passionate kisses we watch in a movie.
Just as Good as Money
Believe it or not, research reveals that receiving a compliment has much the same effect on our brains as receiving money. Why? It may be that a compliment one receives during the day helps the brain to process the related skill or task. This actually happens at night when we are asleep. When compared to receiving money as a reward, the same effect was found to occur in the brain. Therefore, providing praise when your partner does something right helps to reinforce the behavior. We can think of it as money deposited into our emotional banks.
Knowing They Belong
When we praise our partner on a job well done, we are also reminding them that they belong, and we accept them. If they feel a sense of belonging and security then it will be easier for our partner to willingly interact, cooperate, and complete requests. This is even true if it is something they have never done before. For example, let’s say our partner tries to cook a meal, but it doesn’t work out at all. Hearing our praise for trying something new and stepping outside of their comfort zone reassures them and allows them to feel safe about stretching those boundaries in the future. With young children you will often hear parents lavishing compliments and praise on tasks. We hang their drawings on the refrigerator, make a verbal fuss over their efforts, lots of positive attention for good decisions and tasks. This build confidence, connections, and they feel valued. The same effect we experience as adults, that warm sense of connection and approval.
Fondness and Admiration
Doesn’t it feel good when our partner does something, we would like them to do without asking? “Catching them in the act,” scenario fosters feelings of fondness and admiration for our partner. It is nice knowing that they are willing to go the extra mile and make the effort to do something positive, unsolicited and considerate. All of which we appreciate and are right to praise. Whether it’s bringing home our favorite take-out or completing a chore, it is these little acts that can build a positive lasting relationship.
Is There a Way I Can Give Constructive Criticism?
Yes! Everyone makes mistakes. However, we can make sure that our partner continues to feel good about your relationship and our perception of them, by being intentional and compassionate with our criticism. For example:
• Don’t focus on the negative.
• Avoid using judgmental language.
• Ensure your body language is communicating openness vs. anger.
• Use the praise/feedback/praise method to communicate.
• If your partner is unsure what to do, teach them.
• Find the humor in the situation.
When you catch your partner doing good don’t hesitate to lavish your praise. A little positive reinforcement can go a long way towards creating the foundation for a respectful relationship where both partners feel admired, accepted, and loved. For additional ways to experience “small things often” please contact me at Philip@pfauerbachtherapy.com.