Knowing How to Compliment

I've always been fascinated by human nature, and determining what makes some people resilient and able to succeed, and what makes some unable to overcome these challenges.  What is innate, what was conditioned from childhood and what can be improved in adults.

One area I have seen can be caused by well intended parents.  For years, I've heard about the damage caused by over complimenting children. I now think the main issue is not the number of compliments, but rather it's HOW the compliments are given.
In my mind, compliments can be divided into two buckets:  Active State compliments and Static State compliments.
Compliments on "Active State " items encourage kids to develop and evolve and get better (i.e. "great effort;"  "way to face your fears;"  "you must have worked hard;"  "if you keep trying, you can do it.")  The compliments are based on elements the child can control (i.e. working hard, trying new things, overcoming failure.)  These traits are helpful in every situation.
Compliments on "Static State " items tell kids they are what they are, or compliment them based on the opinions of others.  You are smart, pretty, etc.  If they ever "are not" what they have been told, it crushes their perception of the world.  If someone is prettier, their ego is shot because that is "who they are."  If they can't do something well, they just aren't smart, and that's the end of the story.  Their ability is static.  It is or it is not.  They do not actively control it, therefore there is no point in trying to influence the outcome.
This New York Magazine feature really shows how powerful knowing this is to your children's success and well-being.

If you are an adult, and you find yourself afraid or unwilling to try new things, think about your childhood.  Was the praise you received active or static?  You may have had a lot of static state compliments in your childhood, with your parents trying to build you up.  Just being aware may give you the confidence to try new situations where you won't be "great" right away.

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