The piece of 7*12 post-it lay stuck to the legal sized note book, which stood neatly in the wire step file organizer on my desk. Its position meant that it was within clear view. On it was written a brief note. From time to time throughout the day, or whenever I reached for the notebook my eyes skimmed over the note. The days went by but I could not bring myself to throw it out. Two weeks passed, yet the note remained in its place. Finally, one afternoon in week three, I took it from its place and tucked it neatly into my handbag. When I got home, I stuck it between the pages of my journal.
That evening I asked myself, “Why can’t I bring myself to throw out this note? Why is it so important to me?” There was nothing special about the note itself. It was not written on fancy stationery; it did not even contain many words. It simply read, “Hey Leona, leaving today…take care, have a great day!” Moments after asking the question, the answer came to me. It was because I felt appreciated; I felt that the person who wrote the note considered me. I worked with this particular colleague for only a few weeks before she left the department, but yet she considered me enough to leave a note when she was leaving, because I was not there at the time.
The Human Need for Appreciation
In his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie quotes William James who said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Emphasis on the word craving. On Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs this aligns with esteem needs. Yes, the need for appreciation is a basic human need.
Whether it is in our personal life, or on our job, appreciation fosters good relationships. Think back to the last time you showed appreciation towards another person. What was their reaction? Did a smile beam onto their face? Did they seem a bit more upright? Did they walk with their head held high? Did they seem to be more confident? Did their mood improve? If in the workplace, did they work even harder at completing that project or task? Even better, do you recall how you felt the last time you received sincere appreciation? Surely you experienced any one or all of these effects. Carnegie gives examples of bosses who withheld criticism, and instead used praise as an incentive for employees to work.
I know as you know, people who would think they had committed a crime if they let their families or employees go for six days without food, but they would let them go for six days, and six weeks, and sometimes sixty years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave almost as much as they crave food.
Now, neither Carnegie nor I, are suggesting flattery. We are talking about sincere appreciation. Appreciation flows out of the heart while flattery flows out of the mouth. Flattery is a counterfeit; and it would never be real. Even if they don’t show it, a person can usually tell the difference between when you are just using words and when you are being genuine. Flattery makes you seem disingenuous, and it diminishes trust between you and the other person.
November is a beautiful month; don’t you think? 😊 Not just because it is my birth month, but because it is that time when the year is nearing its end, people begin to focus on thanksgiving, and they begin looking forward to the Christmas holidays which follow right after. It is that time of year when we begin to focus on giving thanks and showing appreciation for others, through the giving of gifts and celebrations at family meals and other gatherings.
But, how have you been doing all year? When last have you shown someone in your life genuine appreciation? What has your gratitude practice been like for 2021? Maybe you are like me in this regard. in the past, I had an unstable relationship with my gratitude practice, flirting with it here and there, but gratitude and I began going steady during 2021. Or, maybe your gratitude journaling went well, but you did not do so well at showing appreciation for those in your life.
In his book, The Upward Spiral, Alex Korb explains that gratitude towards others increases social support and connectedness. Make this month a November to remember by showing appreciation to others for the remaining 17 days in the month; that is my challenge to you. Show appreciation to as many persons as you can over the next 17 days.
Think of persons for whom you are grateful and to whom you need to express sincere appreciation. It could be friends or family members, employees, boss or coworkers. Maybe it is someone you have not spoken to for some time, or maybe it is someone you just met. Maybe it is that person who you hardly know, but who gave up his parking spot in the overcrowded carpark for you. (Someone actually did that for me this week and I was so grateful. Male chivalry is still alive.)
Some Ways to Show Appreciation
Give them a call and tell them how you feel or invite them out for coffee or a meal and tell them face to face. You can even buy them a postcard, or a gift basket. If you are a creative, make them something special. Do an act of service, that you know would mean a lot to them. Support them on a project. Spend quality time with them on an activity they enjoy. You can send them an email or even a short handwritten note, like my colleague did, letting them know you appreciate them. (There is power in handwritten notes and letters, though it is a thing we don’t do much again these days.)
Wrapping Things Up…
You never know how your gesture of appreciation may touch and impact the life of that person. Just like my colleague’s gesture impacted me, even on a subconscious level. Only when I investigated it did I really realize its impact. When others touch our lives let us be uninhibited and brave enough to let them know it. Don’t keep it yourself. This way we create a ripple effect, spreading more kindness, love and appreciation.
I sent my colleague a message letting her know how her small gesture impacted me, I also affirmed her with a few encouraging words. Her response, “thank you so much for your kind words, it really made my night.” Now, both she and I are experiencing positive feelings, we are both more confident and we are both more enthusiastic. The result is that we both will naturally share this positive energy with someone else, who will then share it with someone else. Kindness begets kindness, love begets love, appreciation begets appreciation. See the ripple effect I am taking about?
The following quote is accredited to French-American Quaker missionary, Etienne de Grellet but I became familiar with it from Dale Carnegie. “I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
I challenge you to be mindful about showing sincere appreciation, and watch the ripple effect.
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