5 Essentials for the Art of Appreciation
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” —Margaret Cousins
Appreciation means to increase in value. Although we understand the concept of appreciation in the financial sense, increasing the value of others is not as clear.
Rather than talk about the how-to’s, let me describe the necessary mindsets. Here are five that create an appreciation-friendly atmosphere:
Culture is what happens by default if there is not intentional effort to create the one you want. Every organization—large and small, business and family—has a culture, and that culture is the personality of that group.
Often, people don’t recognize culture’s existence and cannot describe what theirs is any more than a fish (if they could talk) could tell you what water is, but it is a major driver of behavior. As a result, any attempt to appreciate others will hit roadblocks. That’s because culture is like the oxygen we breathe: If the atmosphere is one of fear, mistrust or toxic competition, it will be hard to add value to others without cleaning up the air. If the attention is on what is wrong or broken, appreciation is more difficult. But if the focus is on looking for the best in others, then appreciation is encouraged.
Your group culture either advances or inhibits appreciation.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns meals into feasts and strangers into friends. Those who are grateful are the best at adding value to others through appreciation. It is heartfelt and specific.
When we realize how much we’ve been given, we have so much more to give, and the more valuable we feel, the more value we can add. In fact, we can’t help but do this. When your heart is full, others become fortunate recipients of the splashes of gratitude, and appreciation is almost automatic.
Appreciation is really gratitude in action.
Without margin in our schedule, it becomes difficult to do the important things. We live in a world of “spinning plates”—when we solve one problem, we leap to the next. With our frantic pace, it’s easy to become a victim of the urgent things and ignore the important things, because important things are rarely urgent.
Doing things quicker is no substitute for doing the right thing. That’s like saying, “We are losing 5 cents on each sale, but we’ll make it up in volume.”
Try not to exhaust yourself or others by burning the candle at both ends.
Celebrate the differences that exist among people. Don’t let a personal preference or strength become a weakness. When we appreciate the differences in others, our personal strengths increase.
It’s good to have clarity about your strengths and preferences, but not rigidity. When we embrace diversity, we also appreciate divergence and dissent. Lockstep thinking leads to dysfunction, where anyone different is somehow inferior. This attitude adds no value to either party.
Our differences can lead to celebration or intimidation. Choose celebration.
Establish rituals to highlight and commemorate successes, accomplishments and personal celebrations (birthdays, anniversaries, milestones).
One organization, for example, put together Stress Support Kits with aspirin, a comedy DVD, windup toys and a stress ball. If someone was working on a difficult project, they received the kit. This ritual helped send the message that what they were going through was both known and appreciated.
You can design your own ritual. For example, maybe you create a wall of fame for noteworthy accomplishments. The point is to recognize and appreciate others for their efforts. Rituals provide reminders that help structure appreciation and add value to people’s lives.
The practice of appreciation is a powerful art. When a person feels genuinely appreciated, their connection, response, performance and production increase. This, in turn, increases the value of the organization, group or family.
Becoming fluent in the language of appreciation takes practice, but rest assured, it will pay big dividends.
Related: How to Make Others Feel Significant
This post originally appeared on LeadershipTraQ.com.