Appreciation is a currency that can be generously “spent” to create goodwill in a relationship…or completely withheld to create a negative feeling of being taken for granted. Being appreciated conveys the sense of being seen, heard, and valued…one of the best ways to build emotional connection. Appreciation is one of the easiest, quickest, cheapest ways to improve any relationship.
Gary Smalley’s introduction of the Five Love Languages has brought more attention to how many people receive love is through being appreciated, or Words of Affirmation. Those with this primary means of feeling loved literally feel love-starved if they are not given frequent words of encouragement, appreciation, acknowledgement or praise. Even for those of us who have a different love language such as Quality Time, Gifts, Acts of Service or Physical Touch, to live without any appreciation or acknowledgement of our contributions to a relationship or a family is to eventually feel unseen, unheard and undervalued.
What if Giving Appreciation Feels Weird?
I was not given words of acknowledgement or praise or appreciation as a child, even though I tried hard to be good and earn approval. The results as an adult was that I was very poor at receiving compliments and even worse at giving them. Then I learned that my late husband’s primary love language was Words of Affirmation. I wanted him to feel loved to the max, so I set out to train myself to form and deliver sentences that conveyed Words of Affirmation. I had to practice for a while until it became more natural.
Why Make the Effort?
There are multiple rewards for learning to be more verbally appreciative. My first reward was seeing my husband’s face light up when I gave him Words of Affirmation. (It wasn’t hard to think of things I appreciated about him. The hard part was learning to put those appreciations into words.) Here’s some examples: “I appreciate how hard you worked for us today.” Or, “I really admire the way you handled the situation with X. You remained calm and yet held your ground. I’m not sure I would have been as patient.” Or, “I rarely say this, but I love the confidence I have that you will always be faithful to me. Many women can’t say that.” Or, “It was so much fun to hear you sing the National Anthem at the Angel Game. I’m so proud of you!”
My adult son once said to me, “I was a good kid. Why didn’t I ever hear words of appreciation for how little trouble I caused?” Inside, I groaned. Without intending to, I’d passed on a practice that had hurt me with my own parents. I apologized. And since then, have rarely let an encounter with him go by without giving well-deserved praise about his work, his character, or his family. Our relationship has improved as a result. In addition, the habit of praising, appreciating or acknowledging has spread to all relationships, both casual (such as praising good service from a wait-person) or personal, with all friends and family members. I’ve become known as a person who notices anything worthy of praise and generously gives it. As one of the results, I am usually liked…even loved!
Begin Creating the Habit of Appreciation
First you must look for and notice deserving behaviors, attitudes or character traits. Next, don’t refuse to deliver the message just because it feels awkward. The awkwardness will disappear as Words of Affirmation become more habitual…normal for you. Push through the awkward stage. Then deliver the positive words with authentic feeling. No sarcasm or a twist that adds an overtone of humor. Be sincere. Finally, if the receiver feels the need to compliment you in return, accept graciously. This is where the term “currency” comes into play. It’s not that I, or you, give compliments in order to receive them. Not at all. But the practice of frequent compliments or appreciations builds up goodwill in any relationship in which they are given. The atmosphere of mutual goodwill benefits both parties…like putting money in the relationship bank.
A Recent Example
During a recent stay in the hospital (I’m healthy and happy!) I liberally used my habit of expressing appreciation with all the staff who waited on me. Most work 12-hour shifts. They each deserved every bit of appreciation I could give them. Consequently several of them went out of their way to be exceptionally helpful to me, way beyond what normal good care would require.
At one point, when I was tired, hot, sweaty and just wanted to go home, one nurse arranged for me to shower, put fresh bedding on the bed, gave me a clean gown, and even found a small fan to attach to the bed frame to help me stay cool. I nominated her for Nurse of the Month award. The reward for me was amazing service at a difficult time. The reward for the staff was being seen, heard and valued for behaviors that are often taken for granted. Several of them mentioned what a pleasure it was for them to take care of me! They left their shift uplifted by my appreciation. I also left the experience feeling valued…even loved.
Appreciation is a currency that when used liberally pays huge rewards for both the giver and the receiver. Learn more about the value of appreciation in How to Stay Married & Love It EVEN MORE!
You have my love and support,