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Complimentus Excessivus

Almost everyone likes receiving compliments. You, me, and nearly every student with whom you will fly enjoy receiving praise about performance. Some folks like giving compliments, too. Most flight instructors enjoy passing along well-earned compliments as their students learn what's being taught.

You can, however, give too much of a good thing. And that becomes a bad thing. Taken to extremes, a compliment is a form of self-flattery and self-reward. In other words, you give in order to get. The compliment becomes a pat on your own back, which inevitably puts you in an awkward position.

I knew one CFI who ceaselessly complimented his students - whether or not they deserved it. I got the impression that he simply enjoyed the pleasure of providing pleasure, regardless of the reality. I suspect he believed his students thought more highly of him when he said good things about them in their presence. Perhaps his desire to compliment was driven by a need to confirm his own success as a teacher. Measured by the his students' frustration level, he really wasn't much of a success.

By the time his students were ready for solo, many felt contempt rather than content. They were being misled and now knew enough to know it. The excessive and undeserved compliments left them without a good sense of their actual level of skill and accomplishment. The undeserved compliments did more harm than if the CFI had said nothing at all.

Compliment your students, but do so only when praise is deserved. In this way, you avoid frustrating your students and cheapening the currency with which accomplishment is best rewarded.

By Rod Machado

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