Praising: How to Motivate Someone Intrinsically

Praising is one of the highest forms of motivation. When you compliment someone genuinely, you inspire them to do more and become better at their craft or work. It doesn’t matter if the praise is coming from someone you are socially connected with or not. Even robots can offer praise to inspire. In this article, we won’t discuss how to praise God, but rather look at how to praise humans the best way. How can we use praise to motivate others intrinsically?

Meaning of praise

To understand the meaning of praise, we can look at the dictionary. The dictionary teaches us the praise verb meaning:

“To express admiration, approval or commendation; glorify; to say something nice about; revere; applaud; to acknowledge with appreciation; expressing approval”

To give someone praise is to congratulate them on a job well done or to express your admiration for something they have achieved, be it in work, life, or just breathing.

Praise synonyms

The following words have a closer relationship to praising than the original verb: admiration, approval, commendation, acclamation, applause, compliments, kudos, and homage.

Praising for motivation

Benefits of praise

Praising can lead to feeling competent in a task. When you express approval of other people’s work, they learn that they did a great job. Next to this, praising helps people to maintain focus on the task at hand because they feel like they are doing something important. Getting positive feedback on what they are doing is rewarding.

Feeling of competence

When you use praising the right way, you can trigger a feeling of perceived competence in people. Even if they are not good at something, they perceive themselves as competent. This can motivate them to increase their effort and try to improve until they are actually competent.

Intrinsic motivation

When used correctly, praise triggers intrinsic motivation in others. Intrinsic motivation is when someone does something because they love it and want to do more, for their own sake. They don’t need an outside reason or reward to keep going, they just care about improving themselves and what they are doing.

Intrinsic motivation is triggered by a feeling of competence in the task. The positive feedback that you give to someone makes them know that you recognize their improvement and that they are capable of doing good work. This is especially important to give to children who are learning new skills.

praising is an intrinsic reward

Using praise to motivate

Praise is the most powerful tool in our arsenal. We tend to use it automatically, whenever someone does something that makes us feel good. Unfortunately, most praise is empty and useless, with no effect on the person being praised at all. If you want to use praise as a means of motivation then you can’t afford to be careless or sloppy with it. You need to be strategic and specific about your praise. By following the steps below, you can make your praise an effective tool for inspiring others to achieve their highest potential.

  • Unexpected praise
  • Being sincere
  • Specificity
  • Praise the learning curve not the result

Unexpected praise

Unexpected praise is the praise you give before your subject is expecting it. This type of praise is highly effective in inspiring people because if people don’t see it coming, they won’t brace themselves for it. Examples of unexpected praises are:

  • “I really don’t know how you manage to do all of this.”
  • “I love the way you deal with your family. It’s not easy but you make it seem like it is.”

Unexpected praise is often felt more genuine and honest than the praise we hear at every turn. If someone always hears the same type of praise and you give them a compliment they weren’t expecting, it will be impactful.

Being sincere

The key to effective praising is being genuine and authentic. If you make your praise sound like it’s coming from someone else, people will recognize that you are not being sincere. When you give an honest compliment, this inspires others to value it more and want to repeat the action. Examples of sincere praises are:

  • “I love how you drew the legs of the giraffe “
  • “I was not able to learn this as fast as you”

Be careful that your praise doesn’t turn into flattery. Flattery is basically telling someone what they want to hear to get something from them. It is a manipulation technique used by salespeople and conmen everywhere. While praise is the highest form of motivation, flattery is one of the lowest forms.

Intrinsic motivation


When you are specific with your praising, you will inspire the person being praised to put more effort into their actions. This is because specificity lets them know that you pay attention to their efforts and accomplishments. Here are some specific praise examples:

  • “Before you joined the finance department at our company, I thought we were doomed. But within a few weeks, you have already learned a lot about our bookkeeping systems, and tax declarations for three states and one country; meaning that we no longer need to take valuable time from other staffers to do these tedious tasks. We will work further on the reporting systems, but I’m sure you will get there.”

You can be specific by giving a detailed compliment that describes what you liked about their actions. This lets them know just how much their effort means to you.

Praise the learning curve not the result

By praising the learning curve, you can motivate someone to try harder and achieve more. Praising the result will only let them know how much they succeeded in finishing or finishing something properly. It won’t spur them on to do well at anything else in the future. By praising the learning curve, you are telling them that you care about their effort and growth, not just what happens in the end.

Examples of praising the learning curve are:

  • “You are really getting the hang of this.”
  • “Look how far you’ve come in just a month!”

On the other hand, examples of praising the results are:

  • “Great job on finishing this.”
  • “I can’t believe you finished this in time. There were so many problems with it but you went through them all and fixed them all!”
  • “This looks beautiful”

Catch yourself when you are praising results, and try turning them into praise for the learning curve. Praising results is something that will have to be done when needed, and it is not super bad. If someone has already achieved their goal, they’ll expect praise for their results. But you can still similarly praise them as the examples above.


Praising types

Did you know that there are many praising types? Below we discuss some types of praise that also exist.

High praising

High praise is when you compliment a person in a way that flatters them, boosts their ego, and makes them feel special. This can be done by describing or explaining why their choices were smart ones to make or saying something that is from the heart about how they have made your life easier.

Faint praising

Faint praise is when you make a compliment to someone, but the words or tone of your voice don’t show enthusiasm. The person you are praising will get the feeling that you don’t really mean what you say and their self-esteem will decrease from this.

Lofty praising

Lofty praise is when you say something that is too good to be true and the other person ends up not believing you. For example, saying “You’re an amazing cook!” when you know they burned the pasta even though you said it.

Social support

A word from Sublime People

Praise is a powerful tool, but it is easy to misuse it and make mistakes.

Therefore we at Sublime People suggest that you pay attention and watch what you say. If you praise someone, be sure to do it genuinely and make sure they know what you like about them before you praise them.

Remember, if someone isn’t good at something, don’t say they are. Instead, compliment the process they are going through to get better.

Be specific by giving examples of why you think someone is amazing or has done well. This will bring your point across with the most impact and your message won’t be misunderstood.

Do you believe in the power of praise? Let us know what you think!