Appreciation – What’s That?

Sitting across from the midlife man with unshed tears in his eyes, I listened to the anger, sadness and regret he felt for devoting his life to a company that “kicked me out of my job” when they downsized. He had missed most of his children’s sports and school activities over the years but had thought it was necessary for the sake of his job. What was deeply upsetting to him was how he felt that his manager and the company didn’t recognize his contributions throughout his career and that he wasn’t appreciated.

I heard this same refrain many times from many people regarding their work and personal lives: that people who were close to them as well as acquaintances, didn’t give complements for special work or actions leaving them consistently feeling unappreciated. The lack of appreciation seemed rampant, and I was struck by the depth of people’s need for appreciation. One of my clients said “Well, I’m an adult so I shouldn’t have to have appreciation or recognition from other people, right?” My answer was “While it’s important to be able to give ourselves pats on the back and to appreciate who we are and what we do, we also need appreciation from the people around us.”

This issue has made a big impact on me. As a result, I made a decision a long time ago to start consistently appreciating and acknowledging people for a wide variety of things, whether small or large. What a difference it has made! For some clients, my telling them what I see as their strengths is embarrassing and enlightening because their families or managers have torn them down rather than built them up. Earlier this week, I emailed a thank you to an administrative person I have monthly contact with when I submit a coaching invoice. Her response was “…thank you for taking the time to express appreciation. Very kind of you!” It made her day. Other times I’ll see someone in the grocery store and think “What a beautiful jacket she’s wearing.” and then I’ll tell her. I also love to see people’s faces light up when they receive complements or recognition.

How many times do we think something nice and keep it to ourselves? The vast majority of people are pleasantly surprised, and sometimes very moved, by the unsolicited complement. The truth is, we have no idea how much of an impact we have on people everyday, positive or negative. I’ve chosen to lean in the direction of having a positive impact by expressing my appreciation to people. A quote that I love is:

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” — Leo Buscaglia

Now, how about you? Are you giving the people in your life the appreciation they would like and perhaps deserve? Are you getting the appreciation that you want? If not, you may want to find more opportunities to share your genuine appreciation of others and see what happens. Think about it. It may be time to create a new habit!

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