Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Former National Post & Toronto Star columnist, past vice president of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

If You See Something, Say Something

SPOTLIGHT: Concerning the power of praise.

BIG PICTURE: Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams was no stranger to public speaking training when he attended an employer-sponsored Dale Carnegie pitch. He’d taken a class in college, and had already participated in two other public speaking classes in the corporate world.

In his autobiographical book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Adams reports that the Dale Carnegie approach is in a league of its own. Impressed by the testimonials of two fellow employees, he “signed up that day.”

His description of what occurred during the following multi-week course is difficult to forget. During the first class, when the instructor announced that no one would ever be criticized or corrected, and that only positive reinforcement would be permitted, Adams says: “I was immediately skeptical. How was I supposed to learn if I didn’t know what I was doing wrong?”

But the Carnegie outfit knows its business:

One young lady who had been forced by her employer to take the class was so frightened she literally couldn’t form words. In the cool, air-conditioned room, beads of sweat ran from her forehead down to her chin and dropped onto the carpet. The audience watched in shared pain…A few words came out, just barely, and she returned to her seat defeated, humiliated, broken.

Then an interesting thing happened. I rank it as one of the most fascinating things I have ever witnessed. The instructor went to the front and looked at the broken student. The room was dead silent. I’ll always remember his words. He said, ‘Wow. That was brave.’

The twenty other students in the room had been horrified on her behalf, but Adams says:

In four words, the instructor had completely reinterpreted the situation. Every one of us knew the instructor was right…I swear I saw a light come on in her eyes. She looked up from the floor. She had a reprieve. She was still in the fight.

By the end of the course everyone, including this woman, had become confident, effective public speakers. Adams says “the transformative power of praise” he witnessed in that context made him realize that “adults can go weeks without a compliment while enduring criticism both at work and home. Adults are starved for a kind word.”

TOP TAKEAWAY: Adams thinks we have a moral obligation to voice our praise whenever we see something that impresses us.


The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking
Dale Carnegie
How to Develop Self-Confidence and Influence People by Public Speaking
Dale Carnegie
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life
Scott Adams


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This entry was posted on May 23, 2018 by in quotations and tagged .
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