Power of Praise and a Positive Thumbprint
Words matter: How giving praise makes a positive impact

The power of praise [and the] pride to lift

by Gina Barreca / © 2018, The Hartford Courant. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


Was there a time when hearing the simple phrase “I’m proud of you” made a significant difference in your life?

  My family was long on love and short on praise. There were smooches and hugs and pats on the head, but neither my older brother nor I recall that any of the relatives in the immediate family (about 119 of them) ever said, “I’m proud of you, kid.”


A mark of pride

  Pride wasn’t considered a sin, necessarily, but it was a stain: something you’d want to wipe off as soon as you realized it was there.

  For example, when I was on The Oprah Winfrey Show back in the 1990s, I was feeling pretty good about how I did. I knew enough not to tell my relatives in advance, but one of my aunts happened to catch me on TV and called.

  I was surprised, and for about two full seconds, I was pleased. Then in a confiding voice, my aunt said, “You sounded fine, but it’s too bad you looked so heavy. It’s really true about the camera adding 20 pounds.”


True pride

  Our family’s inability to show pride or offer praise without caveats and sarcasm taught my brother and me the importance of being generous and authentic in recognizing the achievements of others—and each other.

  A friend from college, Pat McClendon, tells a more encouraging family story: “When my grandfather, John Ferguson, who was born in 1898 in North Carolina and received no formal education past the eighth grade because if you were black you were told ‘that was all the education you needed,’ attended my graduation from Dartmouth in 1976, he said, ‘I’m very proud of you. You have done what I could not.’”

  Authentic pride acknowledges a sense of common achievement.

  Pride isn’t about grabbing the spotlight; it’s about sharing the illumination.



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