Compliments are important, right? I can go at least a month on a good compliment, okay, maybe a day. Compliments build self-esteem and confidence. But, there is a “But”. See experiments show that if you compliment someone in the wrong way you can actually reduce their IQ. 

Professor Carol Dweck gave two groups of kids part of an IQ test. Afterwards, one group were praised for their ability. They were told how smart they were. The other group were praised for effort, they were told, “you’ve worked really hard.” Later both groups were offered a more challenging task. The majority of the ability-praised kids resisted it, they didn’t want to reveal that maybe they weren’t so “smart.” In contrast 90% of the effort-praised kids embraced it. When they went back to the easy IQ tasks, the kids praised for working hard actually improved their performance. While the performance of those praised for being smart plummeted.

Why? If you’re told you’re smart you never want it proved that you’re not, so you avoid taking on new challenges and fail to build your skills. In contrast, if you’re praised for effort, you roll up your sleeves and embrace tougher problems. When you struggle you just work harder. That hones your skills with easier tasks too. Professor Dweck calls it the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. If you think intelligence or talent is something you’re born with – fixed – you avoid trying to improve it. Why try improve something that doesn’t change? However, if you think you can grow smarter you keep working.
One way to encourage anyone to develop a growth mindset is to compliment them on learning and working hard rather than being smart or gifted. You might even want to congratulate them when they fail. See the biggest failures never fail; they’re too busy pretending to be smart.

According to Dr. Tony Humphreys, only three percent of gifted children make any important social contribution as adults. Having got comfortable with recognition they don’t want to do anything that may bring failure. What we need to help them see is that failure is temporary. Unless you give up. Then it lasts forever. Now if like me your only gifts are the ones you got on your birthday that’s okay, intelligence isn’t a fixed state it’s something that grows – as long as you have a growth mindset.

Now experiment on yourself!

“You didn’t meet my expectations, you surpassed them.” Amal Tantawi, CEO, Lafarge, Zimbabwe