Appreciate

How to Practice the Art of Acknowledgement

One of my clients said of her boss, “Just once, I’d like to hear her tell me what’s good about my work, instead of pointing out everything I didn’t do.”

Sound familiar? Which brain cell warped making it so much easier to notice – and talk about– the bad stuff, while ignoring all the good that surrounds us? The fascinating thing about my client’s comment is that her boss has told me she thinks this person’s work is great!

So why do I know this – and the person involved doesn’t?

Welcome to the art of acknowledgment. Like much art in our society, this art is at high risk of not being taught, practiced, and valued in our criticize-’em-now culture. That has to change.

Acknowledgment is one of the secret ingredients to motivating human behavior. I think its lack is one reason our lives become lackluster. Since we need everything we do to shine more than ever, it’s time to relearn and practice this simple skill.

But how? Here are three ideas how you can fill your canvas at work and home with the art of acknowledgment:

1. Paint the Picture of What You See.

Sometimes we struggle to acknowledge others because the goal isn’t complete or isn’t yet successful. We wait to celebrate until there are results—the project delivered, the weight lost, the problem solved.

Pflooey. It’s the right effort that gets the right results. Painting the picture for someone else of the steps you’re watching them take toward a goal can be very powerful and affirming – even if the ultimate goal hasn’t been met yet. For example, when I was working on my book, Bring Your Superpowers to Work, it was wonderful to hear from friends and colleagues things like “I’m so proud of you for continuing to write and not giving up!” Unfortunately, even the most well intended asked the more common “When exactly will you be getting that done?” (That wasn’t very helpful or uplifting!)

You can be different. You can teach yourself to notice—and call attention to—the positive efforts going on every day. What are all the little things that are happening that add up to big improvements? What choices, decisions, and actions are taking place all the time that in the long run make a difference?

Once you notice those efforts, it’s time to mirror them back. Here are some examples:

  • “Hey Tom, I noticed you spent extra time with the new hire as we started on our project. That was really smart – nobody else thought of that. I’m sure it was helpful to him, too, and I just wanted you to know I noticed.”
  • “Sandy, I wanted to thank you for always bringing a fun, positive attitude to the community association. The work gets hard sometime and I noticed that you never stop smiling, and I really appreciate it!”
  • “Mom, we may disagree sometimes, but you need to know that I see how you always have my best interest at heart. No matter what our differences, I’m grateful that you are supporting me that way.”

What do you see someone else doing that could be acknowledged? Paint the picture for them so they can see it, too.

 2. Create a Space for Appreciation

Contrary to what the wrinkle-cream ads want us to think, time is actually our friend. We all are given the same amount each day, and we have the ability to choose what we do with it.

An easy choice is to create a space in your next meeting, conversation, or interaction to recognize someone, to express appreciation, or to acknowledge a kindness.

Think you don’t have enough time to create space for appreciation? Well, how long does it take to say:

  • “Before we launch into today’s agenda, I wanted to thank the tech team for all they did to help us move ahead on this project. Really appreciate all you did, Alice, Randy, and Taj. Now to our first agenda item. . .”
  • “Honey, before we get started paying this month’s bills, I just want to say how proud I am of us that we’ve been able to reduce our credit card debt so much this year. Yea us!”

3. Just Say Thank You (Really)

For some people, the words “thank you” have become a little like “have a nice day” – empty of any true meaning or sincerity. In fact, one client told me that when his boss said “thank you,” he means “you can go now.” Ouch.

That doesn’t have to be you. You can try a different tack. The next time you are ready to say “thank you” to someone, look him or her in the eyes and say the words “Thank you.”

Then, while still looking at them, say to yourself, “Really.” Really.

Why does this work? The pause it takes you to think “really” creates a beat, a moment. That moment keeps you present and aware of what you are expressing. It also creates a moment for the thanked person to soak it in – and believe what you say.

Of course, if you really want your words to count, make them more permanent and jot a note. The thank-you note is not passé! Buy an inexpensive set of note cards at your local drugstore and take 90 seconds to write to someone you appreciate – even if you see them every day. Unlike email, physical notes still get read, saved, and remembered. After all, like acknowledgment itself, it’s an art.

Darcy Eikenberg, ACC, is the author of Bring Your Superpowers to Work: Your Guide to More Clarity, Confidence & Control, and a popular workplace coach and speaker. You can download a free chapter of her book, get her twice-monthly Community News, and access more free tips and tools on Darcy’s career and success site RedCapeRevolution.com.

Photo credit: ‘Bulletin Board with Thank You‘ from Big Stock

22 Responses to How to Practice the Art of Acknowledgement

  1. Guest says:

    Nicely written. I agree that an overall lack of acknowledgement is a problem that tends to permeate society. X)

  2. Saying thank you sincerely is very lacking in today’s fast-paced world isn’t it? But few people realize, especially bosses (as the article pointed out) that people are actually more productive when they are acknowledged.

    When I was a student, my favorite teachers were the ones who knew how to give feedback, not just the feelgooder kind, but the objective criticism that sometimes hurts. But they always tell us “thank you for working hard on this…” or something along that line. When I became a teacher (clinical instructor actually), I adapted that practice.

    Its not just saying thank you, its saying thank you while you look them in the eye to let them know that you are sincere when you say it.

    •  You make a great point about it being important to acknowledge people even when they have to give the objective criticism that can hurt. Even if we’re not happy with the outcomes, we can acknowledge others’ efforts or actions. For example, “I know this hasn’t gone well, and we’ll talk in a minute about what needs to be better next time. However, I do want to acknowledge how much I appreciate all the research you put into this solution and the way you stretched your thinking here. ”

      So acknowledgment doesn’t just have to be about being happy with the outcomes! We can acknowledge the good intent and attitudes that are present, too.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Always,
      Darcy Eikenberg, ACC

      • Candycat says:

         This bridge is truly a hymn to stone and steel. I remember that was a real crowd on the walkway, awesome you guys made it. Health and Fitness

  3. Justin Mazza says:

    Human beings crave acknowledgement. It’s the way we are wired. A great book to learn how to acknowledge people is Dale Carnegie’s ; How To Win Friends and Influence People.

  4. The post is very nicely written and it contains many useful facts. Thanks!

  5. Lorii Abela says:

    I agree with everything that you have said. To be acknowledged is really a joy and it motivates us to really work harder.. This is really a great post!..  

  6. Lorii Abela says:

    I agree with everything that you have said. To be acknowledged is really a joy and it motivates us to really work harder.. This is really a great post!..  

  7. Lorii Abela says:

    I agree with everything that you have said. To be acknowledged is really a joy and it motivates us to really work harder.. This is really a great post!..  

  8. Tom Kelley says:

    Personal notes for business and personal uses makes all the difference we find.  Even if not acknowledged, we know it sets us apart. 

  9. ofwnurse says:

    Having a grateful heart is a secret to success.  Once we focus on appreciating good things around us,we will begin to attract positive things. Pessimist always criticize and blame others.   They don’t realize that a simple way of saying “THANK YOU” will make someone’s entire day bright.  

  10. Katherine Aw says:

    I totally agree with the part of being acknowledged. Once I worked as a clinic assistant and I was really happy and motivated when the doctor actually says ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ for the very simple tasks I performed. I feel that even though you are superior to someone, an act of thanks would mean that that person is really acknowledged, and that person is really accepted.

  11. This is so very true! One, if not the biggest complaint in the workplace is lack of appreciation. The way I understand it is this. Employers, (or even parents) believe we as individuals just ‘know’ if we aren’t being reprimanded then we are doing a good job. Unfortunately this is old school thinking. 
    Great post!

  12. This is so very true! One, if not the biggest complaint in the workplace is lack of appreciation. The way I understand it is this. Employers, (or even parents) believe we as individuals just ‘know’ if we aren’t being reprimanded then we are doing a good job. Unfortunately this is old school thinking. 
    Great post!

  13. Natalie says:

    We were just talking at work about how no one in management appreciates what the rest of us do. How it is so demoralizing to never get a ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’.  They had started an employee appreciation program that quickly became a farce. No general employee appreciation program can replace a personal acknowledgement.

    I think the management classes should include the Art of Acknowledgement. If fact, it should be a part of parenting classes.

    •  Hi Natalie! Thanks for your post. It’s interesting you mention employee appreciation programs. The current research actually indicates that most employee appreciation programs actually decrease employee engagement, sending a message of “earning” thanks and creating a false entitlement structure. So your experience of the program at your company becoming a farce is not alone!

       The one thing we can each do within our own organizations right now is to be a teacher by example–to be openly showing appreciation to many, no matter what our role or perceived status. Don’t wait for others to give permission to do this; look around and  you and your colleagues can shift the time you spend talking about what you don’t get to time spent giving what you know your colleagues need.

      Thank YOU for reading the post and commenting!

      Always,
      Darcy

  14. Loretta says:

    Wonderful post! Thank you for inspiring a blog post for me :0)

  15. Vlad Behaviour says:

    To make someone believe that your phrase “Thank you” filled with appreciation and gratitude is to practise on yourself.For instance,in front of the mirror at home in order to reach such  level of voice and intonation  when your own words commence to make an impact on you.

  16. Pingback: Reading: April’s Favorite Links on Creativity and Craftsmanship, Not Procrastinating, Work that Matters, and Using Social Media Well

  17. Quotes Life says:

    Thanks for sharing this. Keep up the good work. I really
    appreciate this sharing this. Nice and informative article.
     

  18. Candycat says:

    This bridge is truly a hymn to stone and steel. I remember that was a real crowd on the walkway, awesome you guys made it. Health and Fitness

  19. Pingback: Remembering to Acknowledge….

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