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Why showing appreciation helps you build relationships with others

Librada Estrada

BridgeA topic that comes up often in my discussion with coaching clients is how to draw attention to their individual strengths and accomplishments. I will ask what is important about having others notice these things. Some of the reasons include getting a raise, to be promoted, to highlight the value the individual contributes to the organization or to have a higher up notice that they are expanding their responsibilities/doing the job. What jumps out to me is that regardless of the reason for wanting to have others notice them, at the end of the day it has to do with individuals not feeling appreciated for their actions and desiring validation in different ways (e.g., promotion, raise, etc.). They want to be seen and heard.

Feeling appreciated is important because it helps us to be engaged and valued. For some, it serves as a motivator to keep doing a good job or to do an even better one. It helps build loyalty with staff. I stayed with one particular supervisor for many years. He made it a point to acknowledge staff in different ways-he wrote thank you notes mentioning specific things I did, he would invite us to coffee breaks on an individual basis, plan group events off site (and not just staff retreats), and appreciate us at meetings. He was not perfect and did things that drove me crazy on occasion. I continued working for him because through his actions he let me know that I mattered.

The funny thing is that although we may want validation for ourselves, we are not mindful about extending that to others. How many times do you take for granted, ignore, or don’t pay attention to the people that serve us at the store, restaurants or place of work or at home? I know that I have done it plenty of times myself. We become a little selfish and self-centered. We forget that in order for others to notice us, it’s also important for us to notice them.

When we take them for granted, we overlook our colleagues as important resources. As a supervisor, how often do you acknowledge the efforts of your staff or recognize them for the value that they provide to your organization, team, or projects? Yes, they are getting paid to do their job and it’s not always about the money. We go to work for the mission, the friendships, or the accomplishments. People leave organizations not necessarily because the work is difficult but because of the quality of work relationships or the organizational culture that does not appreciate staff.

This also extends to our personal lives. People leave or ignore personal relationships because they feel taken for granted or not being seen. How do you affirm your significant other, children, or friends?

Several years ago I was being evaluated and the process involved a 360-degree review. Folks that were asked to provide feedback included peers, partners, staff that I supervised and individuals senior to me. It was an interesting experience because initially I expected (and hoped) that I would mostly hear the same things from each group. As it turned out, there was some consistency in the feedback but there were also differences.

Although my partners, supervisor and staff saw me as a resource and that I was available to them, my peers were not clear on what I brought to the table. It was eye opening because I realized that it’s not enough for me to build strong relationships with those that work above and below me but also those that are my peers as well. I wasn’t intentionally ignoring them and yet I was not building relationships with them.

I was so focused on meeting the needs of my boss and those that reported to me that I did not pay attention to the potential influence individuals outside of these roles might have. I took for granted their role in my development and projects. They couldn’t acknowledge my abilities because I had not taken the time to share, nor did I take the time to learn what they brought to the table. Fortunately I learned the lesson and changed my behavior.

Things to keep in mind related to appreciating others at work or home, si tú quieres:

  • You get what you give—At the end of the day it is this simple. When you appreciate others, others will appreciate you.
  • Appreciate others in different ways—According to Gary Chapman and Paul White, authors of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, there are five different ways that people like to be appreciated—through words, time, service, tangibles and physical touch. Not everyone enjoys being appreciated in the same way. And, we usually treat others the way we want to be treated instead of how they want to be treated. Customize your efforts to fit the person when possible. Also, keep in mind that someone may be recognizing your efforts and it may not be landing with you because it may involve gestures that do not resonate with you.
  • Ask yourself who are you unintentionally ignoring—Who around you are you not building a relationship with? It’s not about becoming best friends and it is about paying attention and not taking them for granted.
  • See and value others regardless of title—There are many people we interact with on a daily basis that make our lives a little easier and we don’t always acknowledge them. Notice them in small ways and make them feel valued.
  • Recognize that showing appreciation may be a challenge—Appreciating others is not always natural. Be patient and try different things. The book by Chapman and White is a good resource of different ideas.
  • Ask others what makes them feel appreciated—Be open to asking others what gestures help them feel acknowledged or recognized.

Your turn: How do you like to be appreciated? Tell us your story.

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