People like me, raised in the “cowboy style,” don’t take praise easily.
They believe in “taking a man at his word,” and judging each person by his/her actions, giving each other the benefit of the doubt and sharing what they have. Praise one of those people and they’re likely to say, “It’s nothing. All in a day’s work.”
In the cowboy mentality, you do your best because otherwise, how are you going to get any sleep at night? “You leave it like that,” my uncle would say to my cousins, my dad would say to me, “you won’t be able to sleep tonight. Do it over and do it right.”
Once during my teaching career I was praised. My boss introduced me to some other people and said, “This is the best classroom teacher I have ever seen.” My inner cowboy thought the comment was possibly fake and set an impossible standard for me to maintain.
That’s why praise is rare among cowboys. Chasing cows is a hard life (not that I’ve ever done it; I can barely ride) and a lot of things are out of our control. Some days are just better than others and there is no reason to make an old boy feel like a failure over something he can’t help. That’s when cowboy “support systems” come into play; “You’ll do better next time.” “Need a hand there, pardner?” “Next time you might want to watch where you’re going.” “Sleep on it. Things’ll look better in the morning. They always do.”