Four women working in a business meeting in a cafe coffee shop

I promise to reveal the magic ratio soon, but first let’s talk about the word “praise”. For some, offering praise is an insincere way to manipulate or butter someone up without genuinely meaning the words. While insincere praise does exist, what I want to share is the power of true, heartfelt praise. 

A form of gratitude, specific and authentic praise is a profound way to nurture both personal and professional relationships. And, as with all forms of gratitude, praise can improve the well-being of the recipient and the giver. Whether with friends, colleagues, or loved ones, intentional and genuine praise can be transformative.  

Think of the individuals you cherish in your personal and professional life. Think of all the reasons you appreciate them: their support, kindness, warm smiles, helpfulness, and much more. Now, think about a person who might be challenging at times—a bit abrupt, impatient, constantly late, seemingly distant, or maybe even downright rude.

Behavior is a form of communication and sometimes, the ones who test our patience the most are the ones crying out for our support the loudest. This isn’t to say we should allow others to mistreat us. We do need to have our boundaries, what is and isn’t acceptable. But what if the person who challenges you is struggling and craves praise more than you could imagine? Perhaps they really need to feel seen, heard, and genuinely appreciated. 

The Magic Ratio

Ok, here it comes—Earning my psychology degree, I was taught that we should acknowledge positive behavior six times more than we acknowledge negative behavior. I know, it’s a hefty dose of positive reinforcement, but wow, does it work! Experts don’t always agree on the exact ratio, but regardless of the context—business, romantic relationships, or learning communities—experts do agree that we want to overwhelmingly spotlight the good. And this can create true magic! 

So, why don’t we naturally lean towards the positive? Part of it lies in our inherent negativity bias, an evolutionary survival mechanism that has us focused on the negative. Although this bias served its purpose in the past, it can now lead us to dwell excessively on negatives and overlook the good in those around us.

I know, focusing on the positive isn’t always easy. Trust me; I get it. But let me tell you, it’s worth it and here are some examples for inspiration.

Personal Relationships:

  • “You’re an amazing listener. I feel truly heard and supported whenever I share my thoughts with you.”
  • “Your loyalty and constant support mean the world to me. I’m grateful to have you in my life.”
  • “You have such a great sense of humor. You always know how to make me laugh, even on tough days.”
  • “I appreciate how you always make time for family gatherings and bring everyone together.”
  • “You have a unique talent for staying calm and level-headed during family discussions. It’s admirable.”

Professional Relationships:

  • “Your attention to detail and thoroughness in your work is outstanding. It’s a pleasure to collaborate with you.”
  • “You have a gift for explaining complex ideas in a way that makes them easy for everyone to understand. It’s really helpful.”
  • “Your dedication to meeting deadlines and going the extra mile has had a significant positive impact on the team’s success.”
  • “Your excellent problem-solving skills have saved us time and resources on multiple occasions. Thank you for your contribution.”
  • “Your leadership style is truly empowering. I appreciate how you encourage each team member to excel in their roles.”
  • “You’ve created a supportive and inclusive work environment. It’s motivating to be part of a team that feels like a family.”

Remember, the key to authentic praise is being specific and genuine. Avoid generic compliments and take the time to observe and appreciate the unique qualities and efforts of the person you’re praising. Personalizing the praise makes it more meaningful and shows that you genuinely value and recognize their contributions.

Now, if you find the idea of increasing praise for everyone in your life overwhelming, start small. Pick one person, maybe someone who’s struggling or tends to go unnoticed, and make an effort to acknowledge their successes. If you think they would appreciate it (not everyone does!), you can even make this praise public by sharing it in front of others.

An Art Informed by Science

Using praise to improve relationships isn’t an exact science; it’s an art informed by science. And, while you’re at it, watch out for those unconscious negatives, like that nasty glare or eye roll. We need to be mindful of how we communicate, even non-verbally. Essentially, all interactions have the potential to be positive or negative so we want to keep this in mind.

I can tell you from personal experience that incorporating authentic, heartfelt, and specific positive feedback into my life is a microstep that has transformed my relationships. They’re not perfect all the time—let’s be real—but when things get tough, a little gratitude goes a long way in bringing back the magic.

The Life Lesson I Need to Remember

The best way to change someone else’s behavior is to change my own behavior first. This is key to nurturing the most extraordinary connections in both my personal and professional life.

With gratitude,


  • Lainie Rowell

    Bestselling Author, Award-Winning Educator, TEDx Speaker

    Lainie Rowell is a bestselling author, award-winning educator, and TEDx speaker. She is dedicated to human flourishing focusing on community building, social emotional learning, and honoring what makes each of us unique and dynamic through learner-driven design.

    She earned her degree in psychology and went on to earn postgraduate degrees in education. An international keynote speaker, Lainie has presented in 41 states as well as in dozens of countries across 4 continents. As a consultant, Lainie’s client list ranges from Fortune 100 companies like Apple and Google to school districts and independent schools.

    Lainie is the author of Evolving with Gratitude, the lead author of Evolving Learner, and a contributing-author of Because of a TeacherHer latest, Bold Gratitude: The Journal Designed for You & By You, is an innovative and interactive gratitude journal that empowers individuals of all ages to embrace their unique preferences and express gratitude in their own way. Learn more at