Below are two hypothetical compliments:
A. “You’re such a natural public speaker. I wish I could present as well as you.”
B. “I really liked the way you structured that presentation. What was your thought process?”
Now, which would you rather receive?
At first blush this might seem like a silly question (a compliment’s a compliment, after all, just take it and be happy, Lulu) but my guess is that B sits better with most.
Statement A praises an innate ability, attributing success to an enviable predisposition. Statement B, on the other hand, commends someone’s process and approach, focusing on things that are fully under a person’s control.
More generally, you could say that the first encourages a “fixed mindset” while the latter favors a “growth mindset.” For a full explanation of the difference between the two mentalities, I recommend reading Sandra Huang’s Quora answer to the question “Why are some people more resilient than others?”
Turns out this distinction isn’t just something parents should keep in mind—it’s also a good rule of thumb for gauging the health of our relationships. In thinking about why I tend to feel more energized and optimistic after hanging out with certain people, I’ve realized that a commonality they share is a relish for seeking out learning opportunities and a belief that a successful outcome is always within reach.
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with,” as the saying goes. With that in mind, one of my longer-term resolutions for the new year is to spend more time with people who exhibit a growth mindset.