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Let the Kudos In

Posted by Mark Bennett on August 15, 2012


We get told a lot about how to give thanks; how important it is to be thankful and show it. What about how to best receive thanks? How you handle kudos can have far reaching and long lasting positive impact on yourself.

It was nothing

Often, when someone publicly or privately gives us kudos, we may either discount it in our minds or we pay the briefest attention to it before moving on to the next worry or crisis.

We acknowledge the kudos of course, in order to be gracious and polite (and perhaps to increase the chance of more kudos in the future.)

But our brains are tuned to sense danger; this has been a survival trait for our species. So we tend to be attuned to the negative in our lives in order to avoid pain and trouble, and this trait bleeds over into either a manifested negative self-image or distracted thinking, both of which can discount received kudos.

Ah yes, I remember it well

You may ask, what about that boost to confidence a kudos can give? It’s a start, but if left as simply a boost, it can end up as a fleeting experience. The next bad event, crisis, or stressful situation can easily wash away the momentary good feeling the kudos gave.

Once you move past the acknowledgement and the initial good feelings the kudos evokes, is there a better way to receive kudos for your own benefit and long term well-being?

One way that might help is to take some time to think about the kudos and the context it was given and use that to really reflect on what you did, the circumstances that were present, and the challenges you faced. Recreate the story behind the kudos in your mind and relive the memory with as much of the key details as you can.

You’re doing this for multiple reasons. The first is that it helps to makes the memory of your accomplishment or characteristic become more easily recalled. Our memories work a lot through associations, so the more you can associate to the event, the easier you will remember it.

Secondly, strengthening the association with the challenge you faced will make it more likely you will at least have a more positive outlook if you face even only a somewhat similar challenge in the future. You might not even consciously remember the kudos itself, but even a subconscious memory that you did something positive that others recognized could very well provide that extra energy you need to face the challenge.

Total recall

There are different techniques available for strengthening your memory when you receive a kudos. Many appear to build on the kind of model that Daniel Kahneman talked about in the TED video that Meg posted about a couple of years ago. That is, we can think of ourselves as having an “experiencing self” and a “remembering self.”

The “experiencing self” is in the moment. What you experience is fleeting; the next experience takes the place of the last one and so on. It is your “remembering self” that remembers and is in charge when you make decisions, usually in anticipation of an “expected memory.” (Yes, you can remember it for less than wholesale.)

But your “remembering self” is not a perfect recorder of experiences and you do have some control in how it is shaped. You can intentionally focus on what experiences you will try to have as well as how you will associate the experiences you do have (whether you tried to have them or not) to other memories.

In short, your mind can shape your memories to some extent. In turn, this shaping of your memories shapes your mind, in ways you might like to see it change. This can set you up for future success.

So, think of receiving a kudos as an experience. You can choose to just let the system “remember” it for you (i.e. just file the kudos away in a folder and pull it out when review time comes) or you could use that opportunity to shape your “remembering self” in ways that will benefit you in the future.

Photo by jspad

*There’s been a great deal of research recently in neuroscience about how our memories form and the relationship between the mind and the brain. An interesting book that connects findings in neuroscience (footnoted) to Zen practices is Buddha’s Brain by Rick Hanson and Richard Mendius. The reviews have been positive and you might find it a helpful resource as well.

2 Responses to “Let the Kudos In”

  1. Sri Subramanian said

    Agreed! It is always hard to do less of something we want to shed. However, we can easily do more of something we want to preserve, and that actually helps with doing less. There is a controlled experiment (I can’t now recall where I read it) where one set of kids were asked to leave the door open as they left the room, and another set to *not* shut the door as they left. You can guess which approach had more success. I agree that we can practice that not just in our interaction with others, but in our own internal thought process!

  2. […]  Let the Kudos In, by Mark Bennett Mark raises the importance of being deliberate of how we receive recognition as […]

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