Who Can Be Proud of You?

I spoke with a colleague and explained how I had improved writing over the past year. That person said, “I’m proud of you.”

I said, “Thanks.” And, I wondered why this person felt pride in me, in my accomplishments.

I was proud of my accomplishments. I’d worked hard.

I’m sure my colleague didn’t mean to sound judgmental or parental. I heard judgment and a parental tone.

So I wondered why.

I suspected the Satir Interaction Model has some suggestions for me.

In the image here, the colleague (Person 1) said, “I’m proud of you.” I’m Person 2. I heard the words and made meaning from them. I had feelings about those words. I felt judged. I felt as if I was listening to a parent—not a colleague.

I had plenty of feelings about those feelings!

I managed to say, “Thanks,” because I’m sure my colleague meant well and wanted to express their good feelings with a compliment.

I wonder if there’s another way to express good feelings about someone else, other than using pride.

I’ve used these words:

  • You must be so proud of yourself.
  • I’m so pleased for you.
  • Wow, that was a ton of work—good for you!

I prefer to hear words like this. I hope other people do, too. So far, people seem to have appreciated these words over the “proud of” words.

Why does this matter?

Many organizations insist on performance evaluations at this time of year. I don’t see much value in a once-a-year evaluation. I’m much more a fan of continual feedback. And, when we focus on what people do well, we often get better outcomes.

I’m not saying we should never receive feedback when we do something wrong. No, I want to know when I’ve done something wrong. As fast as possible.

However, my experience with “performance management” is that people wanted me to change my very being. I was supposed to be demure, not aggressive. I was supposed to stop interrupting instead of expressing myself. (I have that extrovert thing: I don’t quite know what my mouth is going to say until it comes out. I know, introverts actually think before speaking. I’m working on that.)

We have several challenging facts:

  • Very few of us know about the Satir Interaction Model.
  • Very few of us know how to offer and receive feedback.
  • Too many managers feel rushed to write down those evaluations. They don’t know how to phrase what might be useful information.
  • Too few managers and teams offer continual feedback.

I have suggestions for everyone involved. First, consider eliminating performance evaluations and focus on feedback—especially about someone does well.

And, if you can avoid the “proud” word, that might work better.

Maybe I’m a little prickly. However, I’m an adult. I get to be proud of me. I’m not sure anyone else can.

That’s the question this week: Who can be proud of you?

5 thoughts on “Who Can Be Proud of You?

  1. Jim Grey

    I don’t think your reaction to this makes you prickly. Saying “I’m proud of you” takes a parent-child stance and we all tend to reject that unless it comes from an actual parent. That doesn’t impute ill intent into the speaker — perhaps s/he is just ignorant of how it comes across. Heaven knows I’ve been similarly ignorant many times in my life, and have been fortunate to get feedback that helped me realize it and change my behavior.

    1. Johanna Post author

      Jim, once I got old enough (maybe 10 or 11?), I didn’t even like it from parents or parent-equivalents (aunts, uncles, grandparents). I think some people like the external recognition.

      I like external recognition in a different way. Instead of someone telling me they’re proud of me, I prefer to hear how my actions have prompted them to change in some way.

      Ignorant? Oh my, I am sure I am ignorant (in my case, stupid) about people. Yeah. I make no claims to be perfect when it comes to people. I work on it, but, yeah.

  2. Terry Adams

    My family has used the terms, “I am proud of you” or “I am proud for you” since I can remember. I have never really see a distinction of parent to child. All ages to each other say it. I was raised in rural Texas so maybe that might be part of it. I often find myself using those terms with folks around me. I realized at one point it might be hard to understand the expression. I thought which might be better “proud of” or “proud for” but other than that, my family and myself usually meant I am excited for you. For me it has been cultural where I have seen it used more than common place usage.

    1. Johanna Post author

      Terry, I have to admit, I like the proud for you. And, if everyone says it regardless of age, maybe that works.

  3. Pingback: How Do You Exercise Your Power? | Create An Adaptable Life

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