13th August 2010
The Power of Appreciation
In the past few weeks I have spent a large amount of time reflecting on the power of appreciation and how it differs from a simple ‘Thank-you’.
For me a simple ‘thank-you’ lacks the deeper validation of what has taken place and the impact on me and my world. It qualifies the thank-you and reflects the all important relational element which I feel we are rarely taught in an intimate, social or business context.
Why engage in an appreciation?
Appreciations on this level haven’t always come naturally to me but, the more I engage with them the more I discover their power – not just as a giver but as a receiver too.
As the giver
As the giver of an appreciation I have learnt:-
- Appreciations help me get back into connection with the other (be it with my husband, a friend, a colleague or client).
- In times of relational difficulty, it forces me to remember that the other person is fundamentally good and reminds me of the things I care about in the other person.
- It helps me remember that it is not all about me. That life is all about a series of relationships.
- It keeps me out of the ‘stories’ and projections I make up in my head. A typical projection for me in times of difficulty with my husband is something like ‘yeah right, like he really gives a damn about what I have to say’.
- In times of uncertainty it brings me out of old brain functioning and helps me engage with my frontal lobe. This means I begin to drop my defences, know that I am safe, and connect with the more positive feelings which lie beneath the pain and fear.
As the receiver
As the receiver my experience is similar to that of the giver but just from the other side of the coin. Let me explain:-
- Firstly, it allows me to know that the giver really does see me as a good person which in turn gives me permission to reframe them as a good person (in happy but particularly conflictual situations)
- Secondly, it forces me to really hear the other tell me something positive about myself rather than allowing me to continue making up stories that I am not seen or understood or appreciated by the other.
When do I give an appreciation?
If you really take the time to notice you will find a number of daily situations where you can offer and receive an appreciation. It is appropriate to offer an appreciation when someone has positively impacted your world in some way. An appreciation can also be extremely valuable when you find yourself in a difficult relational situation where you need to remind yourself and the other about the good as this can potentially help reduce the energy around conflict.
This could be for your partner who has taken responsibility for your social diary allowing you to focus on other important tasks in the day; for your mum who has fetched your sick child from school allowing you to know your child is safe and that you can get on with your work without any worry; or even when your colleague takes a little more time than necessary to go through a problem you have found difficult to navigate.
What’s involved in an appreciation?
In more general situations with extended families, friends, colleagues and even clients appreciations can be offered by simply stating the following:-
- What you appreciate
- The positive impact it had on you
- Why you appreciated it
An example of this could be:
‘I really appreciated you turning up on time today. It allowed me feel more relaxed and to get right into my presentation knowing you were there to back me up.’
Notice how the appreciation is entirely in the positive. This is vital as it prevents the old brain from finding an excuse to view it as a negative which would completely undermine the purpose and value of the appreciation.
Within intimate relationships you can either try it out at this level or take it one step further. If you wish to take it further I recommend you start by offering each other a single appreciation each day.
You can do this by setting time aside – away from the hustle and bustle of the world (as explored in my previous blog ‘So you think you can listen?’)
As the receiver, remember to mirror back what you have heard - this will allow the giver to know that you are really listening and give you the opportunity to let it sink in which will very quickly deepen the connection and safety between you.
I am constantly astounded by the positive impact of an appreciation. I really hope you give it a go and take the time to notice the difference it makes to your relationships.
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