Tag Archives: idioms

Praise – Making people feel valued is the most genuine way to secure their loyalty.


So what is the big deal about praise?

Praise pleases people. The bottom line is (ultimately) that we all feel better about what we are doing if someone notices – somehow it makes it more worthwhile. Praise shows appreciation and that makes a big difference. It’s a key motivator and costs nothing.

Let me give you a classic example: If you are a mum like me, you probably feel like some of the domestic chores that are all part and parcel of having a family are so insanely dull and yet nobody ever comes home and says “Ooh, the kitchen is nice and tidy!” or “Thanks for making our home look so nice on a Friday”. It’s self-explanatory and yet just a kiss would make all the difference wouldn’t it?

You don’t need to ‘spread it on thick’ (exaggerate). That can make people feel uncomfortable and most people see right through it any way . Finding the right balance between ignoring someone’s talents, efforts or personality traits and overdoing it on the compliment front comes naturally for some and less so for others.

Like anything, practice makes perfect and if you are the type of person that would rather run a marathon in the rain than give a compliment or praise someone, the chances are that your relationships suffer as a result. What a shame, keep reading.

So what can I say?

The Americans would say “Great Job!”, “Awesome!” but to the Brits, this would sound patronising, in the UK we might talk to a Kindergarten child that way but not to an adult.

Same language, culturally, a world apart.

Try these for size, say them out loud or in your head

“You must have worked hard on that”
“I appreciate your support today, thanks”
“It looks like you have spent a fair bit of time preparing for that, the time investment certainly paid off.”
“I loved how you handled that guy’s question about…”

Psychologists claim that positive reinforcement works better than punishment. Thank goodness for that! The carrot works better than the stick in other words and after all, we are adults. Punishments for adults just seems so rediculous to me.

IDIOM “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

Meaning that you can give someone an opportunity to do something, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to. If they don’t see why there is no guarantee that they’ll want to do it.

With compliments and praise,  it is the same. If you try to make someone feel appreciated or a valued member of the team but they don’t think you mean it, then it won’t have any impact on them and they will not respect you, no matter what you say to them.

Don’t worry about making grammar mistakes.

You really don’t need to worry about getting the grammar right, if your intentions are honest and sincere, the words will be much more important that the grammar or pronunciation.

Coco’s Cultural Insight

I tend to make mistakes with du and Sie in Germany, I understand the rules for it but find it really difficult to be consistent with implementing this. I can manage a couple of sentences but then I go off the rails and make mistakes. It annoys me but evidently not enough to change it, so what’s going on? When I talk about this to my clients or friends they often say “Oh don’t worry, people realise from your personality that you wouldn’t want to offend someone”. Well I certainly hope so.

Confession Time

To be totally honest though,  and I must confess that I thought hard about deleting this part deep down I have been raised (in the UK) to treat everyone with respect. For me, respect has to be earned, whereas here in Germany it is often determined by your age and superiority. I have huge respect for people that are brilliant at what they do or obviously older members of the community but I have serious problems saying Sie to someone who is clearly incompetent, rude, obnoxious and less qualified than I am. I think the Germans do to actually.

This mindset is something culturally ingrained, so I suspect that it is this innermost belief that subconsciously holds me back. You can take a horse to drink (teach them the rules) but you can’t make them drink (obey the rules perfectly). I am working on it! Honest!

Perfectionist Workaround

If you feel the need to get praise grammatically correct, why not write a short handwritten note instead?  It can be a card or letter, (any excuse Corinne!) or it can be something as simple and understatement as a Post-it note. There is something about a compliment in writing that makes people feel special. You can cheat when it comes with the help of ‘grammarly.com’ via Windows. Alternatively, you can cheat with one of the following:

“I noticed how you helped that customer today in a wheelchair, you were so kind and supportive, exemplary customer service, it was a pleasure to watch.”

Or better still, make it more of a casual dialogue, like this…

“That client was firing on all cylinders today wasn’t he?”
“Oh yeah, you mean the guy with the broken cable? Yeah, something got his goat all right (smiling)
“You were so patient, that’s incredible, I find it so hard to control my temper when a customer is being as rude as he was. How do you do that?”
“I dunno, perhaps he was just having a bad day” (Trying to make light of it)
“Well I thought that you handled him brilliantly/well/very professionally”
“Oh, cheers” (goes away feeling kind of proud too even though he might not have thought much about it until now)

Notice how this was specific, you mentioned exactly which behaviour or action you were impressed by and ASAP “today”, don’t make people wait for their regular appraisal, the impact is greater if you ‘strike while the iron is hot’. The sooner you mention something the greater the impact.

Letting someone overhear you praising them is also a great way to praise someone, as too is introducing someone in a flattering way. “Meet Caroline, she is the brains behind our marketing and she’s brilliant at it, she is one of the most organised people I know!”

So how does the brain react to praise?

Now we are getting to my own way of thinking, the neurologists think about praise in terms of dopamine, which is released into the brain when we hear something that we like, or achieve a goal, it’s a powerful chemical. Isn’t that amazing that you don’t have to find a dealer, you can just make someone feel good, to give them a healthy fix.

Low dopamine levels can have a negative impact on your motivation, make you feel exhausted, trigger addictive behaviour, mood swings and memory loss. I think you’ll agree that it makes sense to learn how to increase dopamine naturally.

Here are some dopomine boosting foods that you can eat.

More about the dopamine building strategies here 

Praise as a Talent Retention Tactic.

So if praise is so important,  then surely the easiest way to retain your best talent is to stroke their ego with praise. No need to go overboard, but believe me, a few kind words about performance, go a long way.

But it is not just about saying nice things is it? If it was that easy we could just sign up for regular phone calls like the ones from AwesomenessReminders.com, Ultimately it is not enough to be told that you are good, hard working, efficient, great with clients or a good presenter, you need to really believe it and that is a matter of trust and respect.

That’s a different story altogether.

Try this experiment

Check out the Leadership AdvanEdge Podcast, there John Kenworthy talks about how to earn respect and he had an incredible experiment that I have already done.

The Podcast Details are:

How do I leverage my Influencing Style? The Trust/Respect Matrix


I reckon you should try it out for yourself. Just make a note of all of the people that you would like to respect you more. Perhaps your list includes
a) some existing or potential clients that don’t seem to have as much faith in your abilities as you would like them to have or
b) someone you work with who doesn’t seem to believe that you have their best interests at heart or
c) a member of staff that seems hell-bent or determined on doing things his own way rather than learning from someone who has been there and got the T-shirt or has more experience.

So next to each name, make a note about what you respect or appreciate about them.

Give and you shall receive

The chances are that the names of the people that you would like to have more respect from have nothing next to their name. That’s not a coincidence.

There is a fair deal of reciprocity involved in trust and respect. Have a good hard think about what it is about them that you admire. Perhaps you are in awe of the fact that they keep overtime to a minimum for the sake of their family, or that they have a tidy desk. Whatever it is, find a way of mentioning it. You don’t need to make a ceremony out of it.  Just mention it. If you are not in the habit of doing this, you might get a suspicious look,  but just mentioning it in a genuine way is enough to make someone sit up and take notice. No buts, ifs etc, just the positive mention, smile and that’s it.

Keep it simple and sincere.

The chances are that they will start taking more notice of you and observe you a little closer, they might want to make a better impression and try to return a compliment. Now the aim of the game is not ‘feel-good ping pong’, it is about picking up on everybody’s talents. It is mission critical that your words are genuine, otherwise, you’re heading for disaster. It can be something small or self-explanatory, it all counts.

You will notice that people will appreciate being on your radar and will want to stay on your radar.

So how give praise effectively and authentically?

The top two tips I can share are to be specific and do it as soon as possible. Relating your praise to a particular situation and not just saying good job, but going deeper, makes it more sincere.

By describing what you liked about a specific behavior goes the extra mile. After all it is the impact of that behavior that counts , particularly if it had an impact on the team.

The Five Love Languages

Now those of you that heard my Facebook Live session this Tuesday (28th March) will have heard me talking about the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman.As I read, I realised that a lot of it is very transferable to business and leadership.

The five love languages are:

Words of Affirmation (today’s topic)
Physical Touch (clearly something you have to be careful about in a professional situation but even this can be useful if that person is a touchy person themselves)
Receiving Gifts The person at work that puts little chocolates on desks at Easter or Christmas, or brings in cake will relate to this
Quality Time These people will appreciate you taking time to really listen to them and perhaps eat lunch together or go for a walk together
Acts of Service (or little favours)

“If your deepest pain is the critical, judmental words of your spouse, (or boss/colleaugues) then perhaps your love languge is words of affirmation” Five Love Languages”

Who is it in your working environment who struggles with accepting criticism? Perhaps you need to focus your praise efforts on them first.

I won’t go into much detail because the book is a totally worthwhile read and I don’t want to butcher Gary’s theory but you get the idea. We all feel loved or appreciated as a result of different actions. Remember that just because you like to give presents, the person you are giving to might actually be hoping that you’ll just spend some time with them or do them a few more little favours. Read the book. Adapt it to your professional relationships and report back.

Boost your Concentration

If you would like more information about how to boost your concentration then I can highly recommend this article froma blog that I have a soft spot for www.healthambition.com.

soft spot …a sentimental fondness or affection

To summarise about praise then…

So when it comes to praising,  be genuine, don’t wait, be specific and start earning respect by noticing the good things in the people, not just at appraisal time but peppered through your professional life. Little and often is the name of the game.

Praise Giving Tips
Be authentic

Why not come into the Facebook group “Professional English for Women”, where we will be putting together an exhaustive list for a range of different situations.

Facebook "Professional English for Women" - where we get to practice our English

Finally, this is just a part of the lesson

I hope that you are enjoyiimprove your concentration levels and want ng my newsletter and if you haven’t signed up already I feel compelled to tell you what you are missing out on…You see each blog post is just the beginning. Behind the scenes, in my newsletter there is a mini business lesson based on this blog.

I provide such a succinct approach to improving your business English because my clients don’t have time for irrelevant training. I love to make language learning flexible, fun and functional. The 3Fs.

My newsletter provides you with your weekly blast of Business English to keep your skills up to speed and ticking over with new vocabulary, pronunciation tips and tricks, grammar, idioms, quotes, jokes and a healthy dose of motivation. It’s just a taste of how I teach. To sign up, here’s the link. Sign up today to get access to my clients only learning zone on Facebook.


On a personal note:

When I was younger I used to write a lot of poetry – a few lines telling them what I thought it was about them that made them so special. I would try to write one for my friends or family when it was their birthday, (A word of caution, once you start this all of your friends will expect one, so be careful)

I’m no professional so the words didn’t always flow but the appreciation for those poems was touching and inspired me to write more. When I moved to Germany, I still had the same urge, no doubt they are a grammatical minefield but you can tell that people are really touched by the hugs and sometimes tears.

A hand written note has a huge impact, try it out and let me know how it made you feel to write it (a good excuse to get out a beautiful fountain pen) and how it was received. You can do this for a friend, partner, your children, a colleague or a neighbour.

Children love little notes, why not write them little English notes, using words that they will easily understand.

“I love it when you play so nicely with your sister”.

“Thank you for eating all of your salad, I know that you don’t like peppers much.”

“Grandma said that you called her last night, I think that really made her week, that was so thoughtful!”

Native Speaking Trainer Takes You From Procrastination to Professionalism.

You know how it is –  you keep meaning to “do something about your English” but find yourself reaching for your English novel, thinking “Well it’s better than nothing”.

It is.

Continue reading Native Speaking Trainer Takes You From Procrastination to Professionalism.

Fuel your Fabulous Future with Feedback

It’s all too easy to overlook great feedback isn’t it?

I grew up in a family business so as a child, we spent many a meal time or car journey, brainstorming about how to improve service, how to streamline systems and how else we could make our business known. Many heads are better than one and although there were times as a child when I used to groan at this, after all, teenagers do a lot of sighing and eye rolling, don’t they? It paved the way for a soul searching need to get hold of really constructive and useful, honest feedback.

Continue reading Fuel your Fabulous Future with Feedback

Rain Idioms to describe your project

As I sit here pondering on the sanity of going camping in the pouring rain, I started chuckling about one of those crazy conversations that I had with my students not so long ago.

You see on a rainy day, on the corporate English circuit as language trainers grab their brollies (umbrellas) to make it across the city for the next group or one to one coaching session, I as a Brit couldn’t help but cringe as I walked in the door to be greeted to some groan inducing remark about ‘typical English weather’. Now being a Brit “Stiff Upper Lip” and all that, I was raised to smile and ignore and don’t get me wrong, I am all for small talk, in fact my students know that I insist on it, and have even been known to walk out of the room for absence of it, but my mid afternoon, the joke’s wearing pretty thin and the need for a coffee is stronger than ever.


So one day in Munich, my last teaching gig of the day was at Roland Berger and I make no qualms about it, these were my favourite students at the time, I used to really enjoy this lesson! It was my favourite afternoon but I was determined to fast track past the ‘typical English weather’ comments, so before anybody could say anything, I said,

“Oh my goodness! It’s raining cats and dogs out there!” to which the mog (affectionate name for cat) loving secretary, whose English wasn’t at it’s best, looked horrified. Now of course there weren’t really cats and dogs falling out of the sky, but the drops were mighty big, like they can be in Munich.

The head of department did me proud and without a bat of an eyelid (without even thinking) said “It never rains, it pours!”, now this was fabulous, I desperately searched my human hard drive for more rain idioms to fuel our silly dialogue and came up with “But, it’s ok, don’t worry about me…”, with a theatrical attempt to get my frizzcharged curls under control, “I’m as right as rain” (meaning I am perfectly fine).

Now, the timing couldn’t have been better, but in came a consultant and said without even realising that we were having a rain idiom banter, “Think we need a rain check on the beer garden idea!” to which I asked, egging him on to go along with our impromptu sketch “But you will let Walther know when you’ll meet, won’t you?” with eyebrows in a frenzy “Come Rain or Shine!” (no matter what, come what may, in any case).

I thought I had escaped but then just as the consultant left, in came another colleague I used to teach and said “Perfect weather for you Corinne!” Agggghhhh. But the tears of laughter mixed with the splashes I had yet to control minimised the groan factor and we went on to talk about other idioms

It turned out that the youngest girl on the team hadn’t saved for a rainy day and was in a fix after her car had failed the MOT or regular safety checks. That tied in perfectly with my topic of the day, conditionals.

In terms of technology it might feel odd using idioms yourself when you are originally introduced to them, I feel the same with German ones, particularly as I don’t want to get the prepositions wrong but as you become more familiar with them and hear them being used more frequently, they won’t sound so unfamiliar and you can have a lot of fun with idioms.

Technology project tasks sometimes have to be ‘put on the back burner’ or put on hold whilst another part of the project takes priority and that is when we are likely to say that we’ll have to take a rain check on going out for a drink after work.


If you want to start using your English more actively without having to join a regular evening class, or ask for training at work, then why not try out an online chat/discussion forum like the one that we have in our facebook group. Even though you are not actually ‘speaking’ English, as you post more often, you’ll automatically start to type faster so you’ll start using a more authentic writing style that makes speaking a lot easier because it is very similar, but you still have the ‘safe haven’ of being to able to go back and edit anything before you post if you want to.

The FB Byte Sized English Bar is a great way to boost confidence in your language skills without anybody at work having to know that you are getting help with your English, so if you want to ask whether the way you have written something is correct, then share it with us and we’ll help you get it right before you send out the email, we’ll find a diplomatic way for you to explain for instance that the project is to far down the line to accept new change requests or that the fees involved are not negotiable. You can also work on your grammar through the regular quizzes and other activities or join in on the career specific discussions that come up.

A lot of the time we are there without an agenda or purpose, it is more like a girlie tech zone for us to be ourselves, communicating and helping each other in English at a time and space to suit us. Why not try it out for just €1 by filling in the form below

How’s the project Going?

I remember, soon after getting to Germany, being told to use some Vitamin B, which baffled me. After all we would have been talking about my job search endeavours and then they seemed to go off topic and start talking about my health – odd!

The first time, I just glazed over and assumed I had misunderstood or heard them wrong – after all that happens a lot when you are not confident using a language, doesn’t it?

But time and time again, I was being winked at with the term ‘Vitamin B‘.  Now I am as much of a flirt as the next girl, but I didn’t get the impression that these guys were ‘cracking on to me’. 

You know what; I seriously began to worry about looking ill, I would go to the toilets, check that I didn’t look even paler than I normally do – after all, I am partly irish with freckles, but I had a hunch it was something else – well it was, it was an idiom and quite frankly it put me out in the cold. For those of you that don’t speak German, I later discovered that ‘Vitamin B’ means Beziehungen or contacts. So I could relax, I wasn’t on death’s door, but perhaps I ought to draw on my contacts a bit more.

So come back inside, take your coat off and let me share with you some idioms that you might use to explain where you are in terms of getting your start-up or project off the ground.

Now if you’ve got a client just about to sign on the dotted line (sign the contract), then you might well want to ‘keep your cards to your chest‘ and tell people that you are hammering out the details. Well surely a hammer isn’t much good to anyone as a rule in business, but of course it has another meaning. What you are really saying is that you are in the process of working something out or negotiating with someone, in what might have become a rather difficult and energy consuming discussion, often virtually as opposed to in person, with exchanges of emails, skype calls and so on. Now if you are feeling a little more confident about things, and you get the impression that signing is only a matter of time and that the delay is purely technicalities, then you might want to ‘put your cards on the table’ and say ‘we’ve got it in the bag‘.

When it comes to technology, which rarely runs smoothly, then they might talk about ‘ironing something out‘ or ‘fixing a glitch‘.  Now a glitch is not usually a big or key technical problem – hopefully – but it is something that it going to take a little thought (loosely translated to the client as time) to put right, something not immediately obvious in the coding for instance.

The most charming and enjoyable way to become more familiar with idioms is to use English regularly, not recommended with other German speakers though, instead it makes more sense to come in and join us in the facebook group Byte Sized English, where we are constantly stumbling upon idioms as we discuss each other’s projects and plans.  So why not join us, to ‘suck it and see‘.