There is such a din around us about positivity and mindfulness, and one wonders when it will hit the point of saturation and fade away only to be replaced by new catchphrases. Truth be told, the normative values have remained unchanged since antiquity. It is just our comprehension and acceptance and internalizing of these that change with our times’ vocabulary. The “do unto your neighbor” biblical call is “social reciprocity” today, for instance.
To be seen, acknowledged, and accepted is a fundamental need with each one of us. Who has not used these phrases with conviction, “I believe” or “I am convinced” or “In my experience” or “I will have you know”? These voices come from a deeply felt spiritual need for self-definition, self-affirmation, self-authentication.
Who are you?
Where are you going?
What more could you be doing?
These are the querries that drive us to live. They decide on our one-moment-to-another choices and actions. So then, did your day go well? Or was it spent just reacting?
If we were to sit down and put pen to paper or fingertips to the keyboard, what is that one sentiment we are hungry for under our controlled masks? The feeling of being valued! That belief that we are in some way unique. A reassurance that we have something truly special to offer the world. This validation from the environment is the thrust that will keep us orbiting with the occasional lift offs. It is the battery cable to our self-esteem — the ointment to our hidden sores.
And the word is ‘Appreciation.‘
It is not recognized. Ask yourself the number of times you have been recognized and then count the moments you felt appreciated. Of course, there are certificate folders, boxes of medals, framed awards, and newspaper clippings, not to mention the promotional felicitation cards in your bio-data of living. But humans still look for simple acknowledgment. It can just be a glance, a meeting of the eyes, some words, a quick pat, an awkward note, but we sense it right away. It is a primal emotion of kinship, a shapeless but instant connection. That stab of humanity in a quicksilver moment is a sample of what is often referred to as the life-force.
What if we were to replicate this exchange consciously?
What if we could each give the other this natural shot of mood lifter?
What if we could dance through life knowing that we are seen?
What if this crying need to be seen and heard was met at regular intervals?
The impact appreciation has on us gets buried under the debris of the daily humdrum. We get so busy racing after goals and projects and mental pictures of where we are headed, and we let the present slip through our fingers. Appreciation is powerful. It can craft our relationships and affect how we see ourselves. It is pretty much known that the number one reason employees leave their place of work is because they do not feel valued by their environment. It is an ethereal thing; appreciation is only felt when people pour themselves into each other.
Mike Robbins, the author of “Focus on the Good Stuff,” espouses that –
It is not about recognizing results and performance. Recognition is limited and based on performance, whereas appreciation is about recognizing the value of people.
Appreciation is when you make a conscious choice to acknowledge something or someone. It happens when we tell ourselves, “Hold on, here is something powerful. There is breath, and there is this being, there is beauty in our common struggle to be with dignity and grace. I appreciate this.” Researchers claim that there is increased activity in key areas of the “appreciative brains” that light up and are correlated to emotional processing and interpersonal bonding. Appreciation is known to improve cognitive abilities and a general sense of well-being.
Now the first Friday in March is designated as Employee Appreciation Day. Although it is still catching up around the world, the day was created to strengthen the bond between employer and employee. On this day, companies thank their employees for their hard work and effort throughout the year. The science is clear: appreciation works, and at the workplace in particular. As per research, feeling appreciated leads to better health, lower stress, and fewer sick days. A study by Glassdoor found that 81% of employees surveyed felt motivated to work harder when their boss showed appreciation. Even with increased productivity, the stunning fact is that appreciation in the workplace lags far behind expressions of appreciation in society at large. So, more often or not, it less likely to give or receive appreciation in our workplaces—where we spend more than 60% of our waking hours than anywhere else in our lives. Even more disheartening is that a whopping majority admits to rarely ever expressing gratitude at work.
We have got to change this since expressing appreciation is a proven positive force. No matter where we are in the scheme and hierarchy of things, acknowledging each other above, across, or below helps everybody feel appreciated, valued, and rewarded. And the gratitude spillover effect is enormous: the domino effect of appreciation causes people who experience gratitude to feel happier and spread that happiness, increasing trust and collaboration among colleagues.
Is it all just about a simple “thank you”? Well, yes and no. Yes, thanking others is the next right thing, but mechanically voiced platitudes can seem insincere, forced and therefore can backfire. The effective way to pursue gratitude is to be appreciative. In other words, be intentional, thoughtful, and authentic while acknowledging another human being. One does not even have to like another or be the best of friends with them to do that. All one is doing is checking in with another on how they are doing and not just what they are doing.
The step forward is to begin by graciously receiving compliments. There is often a tendency to negate the appreciation by contesting it, dismissing it, or just plain explaining it. A gracious acceptance would establish self-value and model appreciation right away. It would also alleviate somewhat the disquiet we’re experiencing inside our socially-distanced bubbles.