Why you should NEVER praise intelligence

Why you should NEVER praise intelligence

Managerial/Parenting/Leadership Tip: DON’T praise intelligence. DO praise effort.


When you praise intelligence, you’re giving recognition to an innate characteristic. When you do this, you’re conditioning your employees/children/followers to believe their job well done was a result of their intelligence rather than their effort. Thus, they start to lean on their smarts, as opposed to the actual effort they put in.

As a result, they learn that many of their achievements require little to no effort.

However, when your employees/children/followers encounter obstacles that require lots of effort, they’re so conditioned to flying by on the base of their intelligence that they often give up more easily than someone who relies on their effort. When people praised for their intelligence fail, they get discouraged, depressed, and question if they’re so smart after all … all because they’ve been conditioned to rely on their intelligence, which is a “fixed” characteristic.

Researchers call this “appealing to fixed mindsets.”

When aptitude is believed to be “fixed,” this assumption can cause people to believe that it’s simply not worth trying hard because they’re either naturally smart or naturally not – and there’s little, if anything, anyone can do about it.

However, when praising effort, you’re instilling a “growth mindset.”

People with “growth mindsets” perceive errors as solvable problems, have an excitable attitude toward failure, and tend to spend more time working through challenges. A “growth mindset” fosters lifelong learning and helps people build resilience.


Because this set of people believes mistakes, failures and shortcomings result from a lack of EFFORT, not a lack of ABILITY. It’s easy to turn up effort … it’s not so easy to turn up intelligence. Get it?

If you want to see this in play, just take a look around you – at work, around your inner circle, around your family … see if you can spot who has a “fixed mindset” and who has a “growth mindset.”


Source: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

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