“Give honest and sincere appreciation.” Carnegie’s second principle is easier to accept than his first. It does, however, make you think of that line, “Sincerity is everything, once you can fake that you have it made.”
Actually, a lot of the criticism against Carnegie is that his advice seems kind of fake. Intentional sincerity, as opposed to spontaneous sincerity, feels inauthentic to a lot of folks. I get that. I used to feel that giving away too many compliments would drain them of their impact. That being too complimentary, would make me a sycophant or a pushover.
Over time I learned that is not the case, and that consistent positive reinforcement works better than the alternatives. I have found this to be the case in business, on the playing field, coaching creatives, raising kids and even training my dog. I have also learned to be intentional about where I bring my focus. Focusing on the good in others has many benefits including changing my own outlook. It also raises expectations which produce better results. Finally and most importantly it helps you gain other’s respect and trust.
Side note: I’d like to add that offering sincere appreciation is an opportunity to communicate an understanding of the other person’s goals. There is a risk in giving appreciation that doesn’t align with someone’s goals. For example, complementing a senior executive on a remedial skill (I.e. Writing a memo, managing an event), or something beyond their control (I.e. Praising girls for being pretty), can come across as condescending and somewhat douchey. Such tonedeaf praise communicates a possible lack of care and understanding. This apparent contradictory advice, may freak out folks who lack empathy. It can feel like “they can’t win” and they revert to their stoic default settings. To those folks I remind them that this is a practice and to keep working at it.
To his credit Carnegie also argues against “false flattery” and “bear oil.” Unfortunately, I fear his meaning gets lost in his old timer-y lingo.
Try to get past the awkward language and focus on the central point, which is that sincere appreciation makes people feel important. This same desire is found in Google’s Project Aristotle, a recent data-driven study to determine what makes teams productive. That study found that top teams rated “having an impact,” as one of their top priorities.
Making people feel important helps them stay engaged, motivated and aligned. Of course, all this may seem obvious, but it is much easier said than done.