The Happy Scientist Live: You, Yes YOU, Need To Learn To Accept Praise

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This is the Happy Scientist Podcast.

Each episode is designed to make you more focused, more productive,

and more satisfied in the lab.

You can find us slash Happy scientist.

Your hosts are Kenneth Vo, founder of the Executive Coaching Firm,

Vera Claritas, and Dr. Nick Oswald, PhD,

bioscientist and Founder Bite-Size Bio.

Hello, this is Nick Oswald welcoming you to this bite-size bio webinar,

which today is a live episode of the Happy Scientist Podcast.

If you want to become a happier, healthier, and a more productive scientist,

you are in the right place. As with, uh, with me, as always,

is bite-sized bios, Mr. Mgi. And that's Mr. Kenneth vot.

In the, in these sessions,

we hear from Ken mostly on principles that will help shape you for a hap happier

and more successful career. And along the way,

I'll pitch in with points from my personal experience as a scientist and from

working with Ken. If you have any questions along the way,

put 'em into the questions box on the side of your screen and I'll put them to

Ken. And today we'll be discussing why you, yes,

you need to accept praise, Ken. Tell us about it.

Alright. It,

it is interesting to me that this is a topic that needs to be on the Happy

Scientist because you're some of the most praiseworthy people out there. I mean,

just, just getting to the level that you're at is praiseworthy and,

you know, you're continuing to do things. And, and yet,

you know, we've talked about in the past about the imposter syndrome. It's,

it's so rampant and that that's an episode worth going back

to and listening to. But I wanna key in specifically on this,

this notion of accepting praise here today because, uh,

it really is a big part of the influence. If you get a grip on this,

it will help you with that imposter syndrome, by the way, that, uh,

there, there's, there's a lot of upside to learning to accept praise.

And, and I'm gonna break this down piece by piece.

Now, something you, you may or may not know, um,

I almost never make a slide that has a

list on it.

I don't usually do that because what I've often noticed people do with this is

they then read the slide to you like, you're too dumb to read it yourself.

But these are points that, that you really do need to get.

Uh, I wanna make sure it comes across. And I didn't,

I didn't wanna just play games of showing pictures to you. I really wanted to,

to spell it out. Now, I am going to read through the slide,

but we're gonna talk about each of these steps. And it's, and it's important.

And so when it comes to praise, the,

the first and most obvious thing is, why are we fighting against praise?

Well, because we think we're not worthy of it. And well, in that regard,

we're not gonna be grateful for it. We're not gonna appreciate it.

So the first step you can take to short circuit that kind of

thinking, when someone praises you, just say, thank you.

You, it's not, even if you think it's not valid praise, that's not the point.

The point is, they bothered to praise you. It's not all about you.


so say thank you because you're acknowledging that they bothered to praise you.

And that's, that's a worthwhile thing to do,

especially once you've gotten to that point and you're not trying to play head

games with yourself and you're willing to accept it,

the next thing you can do is share with them what their compliment

means to you. Because, you know, again,

it's thinking about the other person is useful.

So it's wow coming from you that's, that's really high praise that,

you know, that kind of statement is worthwhile. Or, um, I'm,

I'm really, I'm really grateful that it got noticed by the committee. You know,

I thank you for mentioning it. Um,

figure out what is complimentary about it and then express it.

'cause that's gonna make them feel better about offering you praise. And again,

even if you don't totally agree with it, you can still do this. Um,

'cause it's not that the praise itself is what's meaningful to you.

It's that they praised you, it's meaningful to you. And,

uh, that way, uh, it, it kind of comes to the third point.

You're acknowledging others without diminishing yourself. So you, you can,

you can add in that, you know, I'm, I'm glad you noticed. Or, um,

we, you can say things like, Hey, we did,

I've got other people on my team that really helped me out with this,

or really made this come together. Uh,

so you can acknowledge other people without going, oh, it wasn't me.

It was all somebody else. That's not the point. It's like, you know, um, I,

I'm glad that, that you saw that.

And so and so really got the, really got the, uh,

the data together. So-and-so really, um, got the,

the experiment structured to made this possible. All that is good.

And just make sure you don't go, oh, I didn't matter at all.

Only these other people mattered. It's just, you don't, it's,

it's not either or. You don't have to diminish yourself to, uh,

to raise up others. And that's kind of getting to that fourth point, you know,

just if you're feeling an urge to put yourself down or to minimize

your own efforts, stop that. Um,

you don't have to give into that urge. It's, it's not,

not it required that you do so to accept praise.

And sometimes we have this like a formula in our head that,

that this is what I have to do when praise comes my way. We'll break that,

break that pattern so that you don't go there. Now, another thing that this was,

this was said to me by a scientist who was involved in this little project here.

Um, he said,

are you gonna be bringing up the fact that you should be praising others?

And I said, you know, it really wasn't directly in the outline and,

and all that. But I felt like it was a good thing to, to mention here,

if you try to, to, uh,

divert praise by saying, oh, it wasn't me,

but what about what you've been doing?

You've been doing all this and it's been fantastic.

Don't feel obligated to reciprocate with praise for the other person. Now that,

I'm not saying that you should be arrogant about this. Like, um, you know,

I don't wanna, I don't wanna praise other people. I wanna, I wanna shine.

That's, that's not my point. The point is,

is that you should praise people when you're moved to praise people.

You know, if you're only moved to praise them because they're praising you,

well, that's not really actually very good for you.

Look for opportunities to praise people and do so.

But in the moment where they're praising you, let them have the limelight there.

I know that sounds funny. Like, wait a minute,

I'm the one giving you the praise. I'm in the limelight. No, actually,

they're the one that initiated the communication. That's,

that's their opportunity. So what you should do do is then show appreciation.

And what'll happen,

sometimes you may get praised by somebody that you don't feel as particularly

praiseworthy, or there's really nothing that comes to mind that, that would, uh,

that you'd wanna praise them for. But then you,

then you make some some sad reciprocal praise

that you, that's insincere and you don't really mean it. And they can tell,

and it's uncomfortable. Like when you're on the fly under pressure,

that's not necessarily the best moment to praise someone else,

but it's okay. You can praise them later. And if,

if you're reminded that I gotta look for something to acknowledge them for,

great. Make a note of that and do so.

And whether that happens later today or next month, you know, it,

it puts something in your awareness that was valuable.

So their praising you helped you to do something better,

to communicate with people around you. And again, that's,

that's worthy of appreciation and acceptance.

So now I want to talk about what I'm calling the variance.

Um, when you receive praise in that moment,

you do have to decide what track am I, what track am I gonna get on here?

So for instance,

you might hear praise and realize this is a moment to be humble.

Um, but on other times you'll realize it's time to take ownership.

Yeah, that was me. I did that. I made that happen. Um,

and sometimes in, in a situation like that, you realize,

I need to be sharing credit here. It's not all me. Or maybe I even,

maybe there is an appropriate time to divert the limelight.

And that's when it's just plain true.

When you're getting praised for something that,

that you really didn't earn and other people did,

it's really good for you to, to say, Hey, I,

I didn't actually put that together. That was,

that was worked up by Sarah or Bill or whoever. You know, it's,

that's not the same as, oh, I'm not worthy of any praise of any, of any kind of,

any time that's acknowledging in this specific instance,

you, you're misinformed. I wasn't the one who created that and made that happen.

Uh, this was this other person. So it, it's just a matter of,

of situational awareness. It's, there are times when, you know,

you need to just say, oh, shucks, you know, uh, we,

we have a great team here and, and I didn't do anything special. This,

this kind of thing gets done all the time. Um,

but there are other times we're going, yeah, I, I really worked hard on this. I,

I, it really was important to me, make this happen.

And I'm really glad that it got out there the way it did,

or it got as much attention or, or, uh, it set enough things up.

Or there's the times when you're just like, you know, I wanna,

I wanna point out these other people. And, and sometimes it's just a matter of,

Hey, I, it was a team effort. Yes, I did my part. You know, especially if it,

I took the lead year, that's great.

But these other people stepped up and did their, their job and, and it,

and it really made all the difference.

So another thing that you wanna look at when it comes to praise is to consider

the source. Now I have this little, that's this,

this beautiful picture here of this, of this conduit,

of this pristine, clear water. Isn't that lovely? Um,

sometimes it's like that. And sometimes it's more like a sewer pipe,

and it's put not raw sewage. You know,

not all praise is created equal. So I,

it comes down to who it's coming from and what's behind it. So the first,

first kind of praise I wanted to talk about,

and this is one that's hopefully happening in your world,

and it is important that it happens. 'cause it gives you a, it gives you, uh,

canary and a coal mine. Kinda look at things.

Is this praise coming from your boss?

Is your boss acknowledging your good work? Well, hopefully, and you know,

since you really need your boss to notice your good work,

and you need to be aware of whether or not your boss thinks you're doing good

work, it would be foolish for you to, to push away praise from your boss.

You need that. I mean, that, that's, that's just supporting your own career.

So, and even if you're, you're feeling some, some, uh,

humility issues going on when it comes to your boss,

you really need to suck it up and take as much praise from your boss as you can.


your boss might be just acknowledging your work in, in,

in a constructive fashion. That's great. Sometimes though,

your boss is a blowhard, and you know, it's like, well, I'm gonna,

I'm gonna tickle the children here now. And, uh,

and it feels insincere and all that. And, but it doesn't matter.

It's coming from your boss. Acknowledge they're in their role, you know,

sometimes they need that pat on the head. Um,

and one way that's easy to give it is when they praise you. Like, wow,

coming from you, that really means a lot. You know, say stuff like that. And,

and I, I don't mean insincerely either, obviously, you gotta be sincere,

but recognize that it's true. Coming from your boss, it does mean a lot.

So it's not a bad thing to be able to say that.

Now, maybe you're getting praise from a peer, uh,

in that situation is a little different. Now,

what you're, what it's showing is that you're part of the team and they,

and they, they accept you as part of the team. So that's,

that's worth acknowledging.

It's worth acknowledging that maybe they even see that, hey,

you're starting to stand out among us.

And presumably that's seen as a good thing. And, you know, I mean,

I realize some people don't have the best of motives, but,

but usually their motives are at least neutral.

So if they realize you did something that stood out and they bother to say,

so it,

it only makes sense for you to graciously accept their praise.

And then, then you stand out as not being a jerk on the team. You know, like,

you know, he's so arrogant or, or he's such a,

such a doormat. I tried to, tried to,

to say how good he did something and he wouldn't accept anything.

And you've been on the,

the other side of that where you've tried to praise somebody and they just were

diverting it every turn and it gets frustrating. So, you know,

you don't wanna do that to people.

Another type of person you might get praise from is a subordinate. Well, the,

they're praising you for the fact that you're helping them,

that you're mentoring them, that, that you're giving,

that you're managing them well and giving them good guidance. Um,

that's just another kind of praise. But it's, but it's equally important.

You do need to be, be someone that subordinates like to work for.

And if they're bothering to tell you that, Hey,

I've liked working for you in this way. You wanna,

you wanna accept that and be grateful for it. You, you know, you,

you can thank them for that praise. And, and it makes you look like, well,

you know, you aren't just sitting up there in your ivory tower and like, well,

of course I'm doing all these things for you. You are a mere,

you are a mere postdoc. You know, um, it,

you can, you can set the,

the theme for how you are viewed by,

by the people that answer to you and in one way or another.

And because often these people, they don't,

maybe they're not your just pure direct report.

Maybe it is just on this project they're answering to you. Great.

You know, you can,

you can accept that kind of praise just like you do from a peer. And,

and it makes them feel good to know that they said something nice about

somebody. Yeah, understand. There's another person in this, this scenario.

It's the person giving praise. And they have their own their own agenda, uh,

for why they're doing it and what they hope to get out of it. Now,

sometimes they're doing it 'cause they're trying to,

they're trying to build, um, social connections. Sometimes they're, they,

they wanna be associated with you 'cause they see you as somebody who's going

places. Sometimes they, they see you as somebody that's easy to work with or,

or, um, a good, a good subordinate to them.

They want that. Sometimes their motivations are questionable.

Sometimes you wonder, why are they praising me? What,

what ulterior motives might they have? You know? So I'm,

I'm not saying you need to be Pollyanna about this and naive that when,

when somebody's coming up to you saying, wow, you know, you,

you really stood out in the meeting today. Um, yeah. Do they mean it?

Uh, some people, you know that there's some question about it.

So you don't have to treat every praise as sincere,

as long as you're, you're being rational about it. I mean,

if you're irrationally assuming that every kind of praise is phony and,

and fake and, and they're just, they're just trying to get something from me,

or they're just, they're just trying to butter me up until they,

until they knock me down. You know, I, you,

you can't live thinking like that all the time. But, you know,

there are the occasional problem person floating around,

or the person that maybe they're not black and white a problem,

but in this moment, they're a problem. Fine. You know, keep your eyes open.

Be a professional, uh, when it comes to acknowledging their praise,

but also use appropriate weariness. It's, it's like anything else. You know,

you, you deal with a lot of dangerous things in a lot of labs. I mean,

whether it's dangerous to you personally or dangerous to your experiment,

and you, of course you acknowledge that,

but you don't walk in there every day terrified that, oh my God,

this is gonna kill me today, or this thing's gonna blow up,

or this thing is this thing. I'm,

I'm gonna kill every living thing in my experiment. You know, you,

you won't be able to function if you're continuing to operate that way.

And the same thing goes with how you treat your fellow humans here. So,

you know, it's keep your eyes open, but you know,

but don't overdo it.

So the whole point of this here is if you're being praised,

you must have some strengths. You got some things going on that work,

and other people are starting to notice. And that's great.

And so you have the opportunity then to show further

who you really are. Remember, healthy self-esteem is a virtue.

There's, there is nothing wrong with recognizing, you know what,

I am pretty good at this. Or I did do that task very well, or I,

I did accomplish that objective, um, just as I was, I was supposed to.

So, you know, you can, you can own being noticed for positive reasons.

A a lot of people,

the reason they're uncomfortable with praise is because they got noticed

that you gotta get used to that. If you're gonna advance in your career,

you're going to get noticed. 'cause if you don't get noticed,

you're not gonna advance. It is, it is a requirement.

And so then you've gotta get good at dealing with it. Now,

sometimes people look at this and go, you know, but I really value humility.

And I, I don't know if I can keep accepting praise if I'm gonna be truly humble.


humility does not require you to refuse to refuse praise.

That is not what humility is. And, and what,

what ends up happening in a situation like that is often people exhibit false

humility. False humility is the worst.

It's worse than unmerited pride. Because if,

if you praise me and I go, darn right, I'm that good. Okay, yeah,

I'm a blowhard, but at least it's true. You know? But if I go, oh, no, no, I, I,

I absolutely phoned that in I 10 people could have did it better than me.

A person hearing that knows that that's not true. And it,

it's not a good look for you and you're, you,

you're not actually being humble. That you're,

you are being prideful in a manipulative way.

It is the worst way to exhibit humility. Humility needs to be true.

So, you know, you have strengths. It's okay.

Go ahead and have them, and go ahead and let them be known.

And if other people are bothering to praise you for them, well be grateful.

So what do you think, Nick?

Well done Ken, on a great presentation there.

Me, thank you


Yeah, it's interesting. Um, I was gonna mention,

you already mentioned about the what does someone want when they,

when you know, what do you want? If you give someone praise,

what's the worst thing when they don't accept it? You're, you're trying to,

you know, if you're sincere, which I presume most people here would be you, you,

you're trying, you're trying to deliver.

You've gone out your way to deliver something that you think is, you know,

is, uh, merited and, um,

and will be beneficial. 'cause it's good to get praise.

You want to create that virtuous circle, don't you? And so if you,

if people block, if,

if you block that by not accepting the praise or deflecting it,

you're no one's getting the benefit. Um,

And if you got somebody that, that you can't reciprocate on,

on a peer level like you,

maybe you just really don't feel they're are that good at their job.

They have just done something though that is worthy of praise, that is,

they praised you. Exactly. You can acknowledge that if, if nothing else.

Yeah. Oh, thank you for Yeah, exactly. Yeah. But why is it, why,

why is it that seems to be, I mean, I do it all the time and, you know,

deflect praise or don't absorb it,

you don't absorb the benefit of that. Um, why,

why do you think that is the default for a lot of people? Well,

Uh, one of the things that, and people aren't gonna like to hear this,

that because it represents responsibility. Well, if I did that good,

I'm gonna have to keep operating at that level. I don't,

I don't know if I wanna sign up for that. Um,

so it might be that they're, they're afraid to take responsibility.

It might be they're afraid that I can't keep that up. It was,

it was a momentary el lapse of, of accidental brilliance, you know? Yeah.

Yeah. So it's the, it feels like a, a pressure or an on the spot type of thing.

Right. But, you know, if it's just something happening in the moment,

so you don't have to worry about, I have to keep this moment going forever,

life ebbs and flows, it's fine. You're gonna have, you know,

weeks of not having done anything remarkable at all. That's perfectly fine.

And then you do something remarkable. Well, it's remarkable.

It's by definition not something that's gonna be expected on a,

a day by day basis. So be okay with that.

Yeah. I, I think that it's interesting. It's that I feel like just, you know,

the, the idea of this pre, of this, this episode is,

is then for people who tend not to accept praise than to do it, to accept it.

And the reason for them to accept it is then you create this virtuous circle of,

um, uh, that's beneficial where it's, uh, you get, you, you know,

you're, you're, you're acknowledged by someone else when you get, when you,

you're good at something or you do something well.

So you get the dopamine from that if you like,

and they get the dopamine from you accepting the praise. And then you can, you,

you know, you don't have to reciprocate, as you said,

because it shouldn't be fake. But then that can go around and, and, um,

so that's the reason for this presentation. Uh, it seems to me, as you said,

that, that one of the reasons for people not accepting that is, as you said, um,

the, uh,

the sort of pressure that of, oh my God, what if I don't,

can't do this again in the future or whatever, but that matter. But, um,

the other one, the, the main one for me is kind of like a, it's like a,

almost like a self-consciousness thing or something like that.

I'm not quite sure. You feel it's literally a reflexive thing to do it.

Mm-hmm. And you don't want to appear as, if I was to describe, for me,

it's, I don't want to appear as, um,

as a show off or something like that, you know?

So what's the cure for that? It's to accept that it's okay to, you know,

there will be moments when you shine and, and you should own them yourself.


There are moments too where you've gone fishing for praise and then you get

it, and then you realize, I shouldn't have studied this. You know? Okay.

That, that happens sometimes. But that's not, generally,

that's not gonna be the circumstance. If,

if you're that insecure that you're constantly begging for somebody to notice

you've done, you've done well, um,

that's something you really gotta look more deeply into. But generally speaking,

um, you, if you've done something praiseworthy, you know it.

And so when somebody else says, I saw it too, well, how can you,

how can you be mad at them for noticing what you already feel about yourself?

So, you know, let 'em, let 'em have their moment of awareness. Yeah.

It's a very fine line though, right? Because, right. So as,

as we've mentioned on here before, I sing in a band, right? Mm-hmm.

And when I sing and I think I've done well,

then in a way I want other people to say that I thought

I did well in a way. I don't want to have to deal with that.

So I just stay away from people tend to anyway, as much as I can.

That's a really weird tension because I don't want to, um,

I don't want to appear that I am, you know, fishing.

I'm not really fishing, but I would enjoy it if someone said that. So it's,

yeah, I tend to try and make it so that if someone's gonna say that to them,

they find me. And then,

but you see other people in that same situation who wade through the crowd so

they get all the benefit. I actually, that's a bad thing either. I dunno.

But it's not for me.

Yeah. Well, the,

I think what happens a lot of times too is people get blindsided by the praise.

They, they, they weren't looking to work the crowd,

and somebody somehow makes it backstage. You go, you were awesome. Well,

where'd you come from? You know? And,

and so it has nothing to do with the praise itself,

it's just that it was the circumstances that that

shook you up. Well, you're gonna have moments like that too, where,

where you have not received praise Well, and maybe even they were disappointed.

There's no, there's nothing that says you can't go back to them later and say,

Hey, you know, the other day when,

when you commented on,

on what you got out of my presentation, I, I, I felt, I felt like I was,

I I was distracted and all that. I just wanted to say, I really appreciated you,

you, you telling me that I, you know, in fact, I wasn't expecting it. So it was,

it was really great to hear that is super valuable and,

and somebody else feels really praised for praising you now. So you've,

you have, you've, you've gained an advantage for them, so,

and that's worthwhile.

Yeah. So I'm just kinda writing down, okay, so what's the playbook here then?

How do you deal with this in the best way? One way. Uh,

the one point is be aware if you're fishing,

if you feel like you're fishing for it genuinely, then step back, you know?

And, um,

or if step back and kind of examine where you are there. Mm-hmm.

Be aware if they are fishing or if they have an ulterior motive. Um, but if the,

if the way is clear, which is actually most of the time,

in my experience anyway, where it is genuine. Yeah. Um,

then accept the praise,

praise the praise back to create the, the circle. And,

and then also when it's appropriate, praise other people.

And then imagine if people are doing that. And it's not, it's, it's free.

It's free happy juice, dopamine, or whatever you wanna call it, isn't it?

And so reinforces people with no cost whatsoever if we're just,

This allows you to, to interject praise that is not frivolous.

Yeah. Um, you know, because if somebody praises you and all you do, oh, oh yeah,

you really keep your desk neat. No. Oh, big deal. You know, but it's like, no,

I, I really appreciate you noticing that. That's genuine,

genuine praise from you. So it's like you say, it's an upward spiral.

Yeah. Okay.


Well thank you for that, Ken. I think that was a short and sweet,

not a complicated point, but it's one that definitely,

definitely has to be made, uh, for a lot of people where it's missing out.

It's kind of a low hanging fruit life hack, if you like. There

You go. Flexible. And the rest of your life too. You can,

you can use this with your kids, with your spouse, your significant other, your,

Your parents, your friends. It's, it's everywhere in life. Okay?

So it's probably one of the most simple comments, uh, simple,

simple concepts that you come up with, uh, Ken. So, uh,

short and sweet, and this is probably the, the one to, uh,

if you're gonna share this with your friends. So, uh,

share this podcast with your friends. Start here. Go.

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be life today or on demand later. And, uh, as I said, if you're, uh,

if you enjoy this content,

please share this with your colleagues so that we can help spread the happy

scientist. Um, yeah, we would like that. Praise. Yeah, we would like that.

Praise. That would be fun. Um, uh, also consider,

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The Happy Scientist Live: You, Yes YOU, Need To Learn To Accept Praise