What Are Some of The Best Ways To Express Recognition?

A webinar attendee asked me this week about the best way to express recognition to someone. Were there any great examples of recognition I had heard? They asked what I would recommend that people say to give more meaningful recognition. 

What I attempted to tell this person was to stick to the principles behind giving amazing recognition and not to script out what to say or write. 

I’ll share with you some key ideas about this concept.

#1. My Two-Part Specificity Rule™

If you’ve read this blog long enough or ever heard me speak before, you know that I always teach about my Two-Part Specificity Rule™.

All you have to remember is two things. 

1. Be specific in identifying the ACTION or behaviors the person did you feel merits recognition.

2. Tell people the IMPACT their actions made on you, a customer, a fellow employee, or the organization.

Many people go beyond the boring, “good job!” Some people are even getting more specific in describing the behaviors they’re recognizing people for. But very few are specifically telling people the impact their actions had on people.

What effect does the second part have on people?

Employees we’ve surveyed tell us that just being specific about the action leaves them wondering why they’re being recognized. Are they going to receive another job task after the recognition? Now, what does their boss want? 

As soon as you throw in the impact piece, it stops employees in their tracks. Employees tell us they did not know their actions made a difference to others. Having a manager be specific with impact showed them their manager had noticed and connected the dots for the employee. This recognition was real, it was authentic. 

You don’t have to become a special communicator to give fantastic recognition. Just remember, ACTION + IMPACT.

#2. Build Up a Positive Vocabulary

How you compose your recognition message does not have to follow any formal script format. Act naturally and use the Action plus Impact principle. 

What I can tell you is you should tune up your vocabulary to use more positive words. 

You might not know that 50 percent of our working vocabulary is negative and only 30 percent is actually positive. The remaining 20 percent of our vocabulary is neutral. 

So, this would mean that the word “awful” is negative; the word “amazing” is seen as positive; and the infamous and most often used word, “good,” is really neutral. Which means saying “good job” is neither a positive nor a specific and meaningful expression of recognition. 

#3. Change Your Vocal Variety 

In our research, we found out that employees felt a person’s voice was the most important behavior in conveying authentic and effective recognition.

Scientific research shows that our sense of hearing for voice is probably stronger than sight in accurately detecting emotion. Dr. Michael Kraus at the Yale University School of Management found that we are more accurate at hearing someone’s voice than when we look only at their facial expressions, or even when we see their face and hear their voice. 

Here are some ways you can improve your tone of voice when giving recognition.

  • Breathe well. Take good diaphragmatic breaths so you are calm and in control of your voice. A strong voice shows positive emotions.
  • Get excited. Make sure you are an enthusiastic recognizer and smile. Your voice will reflect the positive energy you show people.
  • Vocal variety. Shoot for a middle to a high frequency tone of voice. Higher-pitched tone of voice is associated with positivity and excitement.
  • Speech pacing. Speak with a steady and even pace of speech. When you are genuinely excited, you’ll automatically start a faster rate of speech.
  • Speak clearly. Enunciate your recognition message using the tip of your tongue and using your lips. All of this lends itself to good vibration and vocal frequency.


There are many ways to express your recognition messages better, but work on these three and you will make a powerful impression on your peers and leaders. 

1. Learn to be more specific about your recognition and tell people how their contributions made a difference to others.

2. Work on upping the quality of your vocabulary by using more positive words than you might do right now.

3. Get excited when you’re recognizing people and let this enthusiasm show in the positive variety of your voice.

Recognition Reflection: How do you help employees to give better quality recognition?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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