It may sound overly simple, but adding purposeful appreciation towards others can be one of the most powerful communication tools you can hone. People want and need to feel appreciated [whether you’re in a training session, classroom, or working in your office]. People will respond better, and perform better when they are genuinely valued.
Try any of the following appreciation exercises and watch what happens!
Catch someone doing something right and recognize them for it. For example, say something positive when someone picks up a poster that has fallen down, someone holds the door for you, or someone cleans your dish in the sink. You can go one step further, even giving them a small gift, like a small bag of candy, and leaving it with a short note.
Validate someone for something they did for you that made your life better or easier. For example, someone may retrieve coffee when you’ve left it lying somewhere, a neighbor smiles when you walk by, your office mate offers to help with a project, etc. Start with the description of what they are doing. For example, “you are so thoughtful to bring my coffee to me,” “you are always so helpful,” and “you always greet me with a smile.”
Tell someone, in front of someone else, or better yet in front of a group, “You did a great job!” Another good way to express your gratitude is to send a note or e-mail, or make a call to that person’s boss and tell them the same thing. For those for whom public recognition is uncomfortable, a word in private will let people know that you do notice and appreciate it. Don’t we all wish our co-workers, customers, and friends, would find ways to show their appreciation for our work more often?
Give a note to someone for no special reason. Say something like, “I’m glad you are my son”; “I’m glad you are here”; or “Your smile made my day!” I received an e-mail from a new boss about a week after I started and all it said was, “We are lucky to have you on our team.” I think I still have that note.
This may be one that is out of the comfort zone for some, but it can be a very effective way to connect.
Get in a circle with your workgroup or family. Start with one person, and share one thing you appreciate about that person. As you go around the circle, each person adds something different or elaborates on something for that same person. As you go around the circle, each person adds a comment. You continue around the circle until everyone has commented on that person. Then go to the next person in the circle and do this exercise until everyone has received an appreciation comment from each person.
Some examples might be, “What I appreciate about you is how you always greet me with a smile”; “I appreciate that you always meet your deadlines and I never have to remind you”; “I appreciate you for always being willing to help me in any way”; “I appreciate that you do the dishes without asking”; “I love your smile”; “You are a fabulous cook.”
Bonus: This exercise also can be a great esteem builder for kids. I used this for my Girl Scout troop and the kids loved it. You can also get creative, make a poster for each person, and have everyone say something positive about that person on the poster. My daughter still has the poster we made for her years ago.
Have everyone in a group (staff meeting, family reunions, etc.) write down something they appreciate about someone in the group. Put the pieces of paper in a bowl and draw one for a simple prize, candy, coffee, or a silly trophy that is passed around from meeting to meeting. For the appreciation notes left that weren’t drawn, give them to the person with a short verbal thank you.
At one of my jobs, we passed around a Dilbert doll to the person who did something helpful or special that week. Sometimes we “enhanced” his appearance by adding a hat or sticker before passing him on. Dilbert became a prized possession. (He even was kidnapped for a while and we had to pay a ransom to get him back). When I left my job there, I was given Dilbert as a going-away present. I still smile every time I see him on my shelf.
Every Monday morning, or any specific day, write one hand-written note to someone you appreciate for something they did. I keep inexpensive cards in my desk drawer and start each Monday by writing one note. I put a reminder note on my calendar and try to make it the first thing I do. I always feel good afterward. And, no matter how many times someone gets a note, they still love it. I almost always get a comment back from the recipient. And no, no one has ever gotten tired of getting a note of appreciation. It can be a very powerful team-building tool as well.
This may sound silly, but whether we admit it or not, we all love to have our birthday remembered, especially by someone you don’t expect. Keep a file of birthdays on your calendar of friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc. Keep cards on hand and simply sign your name and give (or mail) it to them. It takes very little time and has a huge impact on relationships.
I use this exercise in workshops and usually meet some resistance at first. It is out of the comfort zone for many. But, for those who have the courage to try it, it is a very powerful exercise for both people involved.
Sit down and write a thank-you letter to someone for whom you feel gratitude. Describe the qualities that had an impact on your life, such as courage, loyalty, support, kindness, wit, or persistence. Then call or visit that person and read your heartfelt description. Thank them for being an influence on your life.
Make it personal! Remember their name and say it. Don’t tell yourself and others that you are bad at names; that will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
When I met the president of Whitworth University, Bill Robinson, for the first time, it was on a student visit with my daughter. When I met him again a year later, what stood out to me was that he remembered my name. Apparently, Bill is quite notorious on campus and beyond for remembering people’s names. I was so impressed that I have stepped up my effort in working on this skill.