You will have stronger, more enduring relationships with your clients and team members if you praise them 5-10 times as often as you say something negative. The same holds true for your marriage and probably your parenting.

The sweet spot for healthy relationships is to offer 5 times as much positive feedback as negative feedback. In a given day, you might point out one negative thing that bugs you and offer 5 compliments about what you like.

Giving more negative feedback than positive feedback is a characteristic of teams with low performance and of divorced couples.

Many of us were taught that it's important to correct people when they're doing something wrong. At one extreme, we only comment on someone's performance when it's wrong, at which point we say something critical. That one-sided style doesn't really inspire anyone to do their best in the future!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you give a LOT of positive feedback, more than 11 times as much positive as negative, that's being overly optimistic to the point of being unrealistic. And people don't value praise that seems so disconnected from their level of commitment or expertise.

What can be a bit tricky about supplying effective feedback is that we each have a different idea of 1) what we want to be praised for and 2) how we want to be praised.

What we want to be praised for:

One of the most powerful exercises I participated in during my training was about praise. The room of participants was split into 4 groups, based on our personality types, and each group was asked to write down answers to the following questions: "What do you want to be recognized for? How do you want to be appreciated?".

One group wanted to be praised for doing something nice for someone else, doing excellent work, and doing something without supervision. Getting praised for those accomplishments was more important than being rewarded. The praise could be verbal or written.

In another group, they wanted to be appreciated for everything, from the quality of their work to their very existence. Desired appreciation ranged from time off, receiving reciprocal thoughtfulness, public affirmation (applause was welcome), personal gifts, notes, money, even diamond tiaras!

These examples point out HOW VERY DIFFERENT one person's vision of praise, and what actions deserve praise, can be from another's.

How we want to be praised:

Ask to find out.

Keep in mind that your idea of worthwhile activity and your idea of positive feedback may not be the same as the people with whom you're working (or living). So ask them: "How do you know you are appreciated? How do you like to be recognized and rewarded?"

Provide positive attention:

This includes using an upbeat tone of voice and bestowing your FULL attention on the person you're praising.

Make it specific, not generic.

Go beyond "you did a good job". People who are oriented toward logic want to know WHY they're getting praise.

People who are more oriented toward relationships or inner values are more willing to receive general praise. They will fill in the blanks by themselves about WHY they're getting it! People want to feel valued for who they are as a person, not just for their actions. Actions can be part of your feedback, but don't stop there.

Remember that your team members (spouse, kids) are working towards their OWN vision of success, to feed their WHY. (And their vision of success is probably NOT your vision of success.) When possible, connect the praise to what you know about their WHY.


I'm confident you're already using the power of positive praise with your team or clients. Amp it up even more by using the format described above. And don't forget your spouse and family! Listen to your speech with them and see where you can bring your positive/negative ratio up to 5 or higher.

Author's Bio: 

Marcy Stahl’s passion is helping women direct sellers and solopreneurs achieve the successful lifestyle they want. She knows that the top entrepreneurs have the top mindsets. Her mission is to help every entrepreneur develop a profitable and abundant mindset.

Marcy is a serial entrepreneur. Previously, she co-founded and managed a government contracting firm that earned over $1M in annual revenues. She holds a B.S. with honors and M.S. in Computer Science from George Mason University. Prior to coaching, she spent 21 years in the corporate world in technology.

She is the co-author of Direct Selling Power. Marcy is an Area Chapter Coordinator with the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance (DSWA) and a member of the Direct Selling Women’s Speaker Bureau. She’s currently in coaching school for direct sellers.