On the effect of appreciation

Let's say... we have achieved something - at least in our eyes - remarkable. Perhaps we have completed a task for which we had to forego many pleasant things. We had to cancel some nicer things and instead struggle with discipline, stamina, double shifts and deadlines. Life time was invested and other things were neglected: fellow human beings, obligations, pleasures, and last but not least - ourselves. Yet somehow no one seems to really care. Our efforts and sacrifices, our skills put to use and efforts expended. No one pauses. No one looks up.

Maybe it wasn't even something sensationally special that we did, but we do find it a bit remarkable. Remarkable. Worthy of being noticed. Not only by ourselves, but also by others. The lack of recognition hurts. It hurts when the value we ourselves recognize in our big and small actions, in our thinking, feeling and being, goes unnoticed by others.

Now, one might think that those who make themselves so dependent on feedback from others have only themselves to blame for their unhappiness. But recognition is a basic human need, even beyond "likes" and clicks. Frustration grows out of astonishment and indignation at the ignorance of the environment. Anger turns into despair. Persistent disappointment withers into resignation. We all wish to be seen. Not just to be noticed, but to really be seen. The things we do and achieve every day. The traces we leave in the world by existing.

It is quite possible that in this state we keep our gaze strongly focused on ourselves. Perhaps we first have to loosen it again, detach it and travel away from ourselves. Appreciation does not have to be and remain a scarce resource. We can free ourselves from the waiting position and actively set something in motion: A spiral of appreciation. For those who sow appreciation instead of hoping for it, help to increase it, to harvest its fruits together with others and to redistribute it to many people. This can be done without calculation, self-interest and manipulation, but with simple mindfulness, which we are not afraid to make visible, audible and tangible for each other. Here are five tips on how this can look in practice.

Five tips to boost the appreciation spiral:

1. Say thank you - especially for the little things in everyday life.

We do thousands of little things every day that we ourselves often pay little attention to. The everyday may seem insignificant and mundane, but it still has to be done. Making coffee, cleaning out the dishwasher, preparing food, doing the shopping, paying the bills, taking out the rubbish, changing tyres, booking trips, sending birthday cards or important emails... The list could go on forever. If we get into the habit of thanking our fellow human beings - whether partners, children, colleagues, friends, whoever - even for things that seem to be taken for granted, we will soon find that words of thanks are contagious and they too will (possibly) soon thank us more often. To us and to others. So: say or write thank you more often - especially for the many little things that hold our everyday life together!

2. Praise - not only that we liked something, but also what.

Some superiors are in the habit of saying: "Not complaining is enough praise! Depending on the region and industry, there may also be talk of grumbling, scolding or reprimanding. Whatever the case may be. People who say (and sincerely believe) such things would probably rather not be around. Because we like to be praised. This is true for adults and children alike. When we have done something special, positive feedback lets us know that it has been seen and is making an impact in the world. Our actions leave traces.

Praise" is often said to create a gradient. The praiser places himself patronisingly above the praised. Unfortunately, this discourages praise, especially from those who are particularly interested in an eye-to-eye encounter. This need not be the case as long as praise is specific and concrete. That makes it less interchangeable. What exactly do we think the other person has done enormously well, what stands out, what makes it stand out and why does it resonate with us and probably with others? 

So let's not let ourselves be talked into it and praise each other more often. We can be a little more generous with this - even towards adults.

So instead of grumbling, grumbling, grumbling and grumbling, just praise more often!

3. Relate perspectives

Who doesn't know Maslow's pyramid of needs? First, we want to eat, sleep and - most of us, anyway - sex. Once our basic needs are met, we want secure housing, employment and income. Admittedly, this is where things start to hook, stutter and hobble for many. There is a lack of time, energy and resources to think about our social needs, i.e. relationships and friendships, when the level below is on shaky ground. At the top of the pyramid are recognition, appreciation and - wouldn't that be lovely? - Self-realisation. 

But what if the person next to us is in a completely different place than we are? Are we possibly on the verge of self-realisation while a friend of ours is struggling daily to meet basic needs? Are we dreading the next bill in our mailbox or inbox while our friends are complaining about bad returns?

Worries, needs, wishes and hopes are always relative. And yet, and precisely for that reason, they are to be taken seriously and treated with respect - in every direction. No matter on which latitude of the pyramid of needs they are located.

So: For a more empathetic interaction with each other, we should change perspectives more often and take on the point of view of other people. Our view of things is only one of many possible sides.

4. Values + Appreciate = Appreciation

Maslow's pyramid of needs is one thing, individual needs and values something else. Everyone has some, but not everyone has the same ones. From adventurousness and consistency to discipline, empathy, flexibility, serenity, humor, integrity, creativity and passion, to courage, order, calm, spontaneity and belonging... The list is almost endless.

When the well-ordered tidy person meets the creative chaotic person (or the chaotic creative person), things can easily grate or even crash. If the easy-going person and the quiet lover have to share an office with each other, it can soon lead to a bad mood. And if the flatmate forgets to tidy up the kitchen behind her and leave it in a passable condition for the next person due to her exuberance and joie de vivre, sparks can fly at some point.

If we want to fulfil our individual needs, whether alone or in interaction with others, we must first know and be able to name them ourselves. What are our values? What do I stand for? What is not negotiable - or only negotiable to a certain extent - for me? Once we have found this out and formulated it, however, it does not stop there. Our fellow human beings also have needs and values that want to be recognised. This requires dialogue and attentive observation. And this is best done before the escalation spiral has spiralled upwards and there is a big bang.

So: Protecting and appreciating one's own and other people's values - that's where appreciation comes from. At best, on all sides. This must and may be talked about. Without strife and quarrels and arguments.

5. Hurray for imperfection!

Each of us has weaknesses and not everything comes as easily to us as (apparently) to most others. On the other hand, our contemporaries have an illustrious repertoire of shortcomings to show - or to conceal. People are different. And that is why they sometimes perform certain tasks more awkwardly or reluctantly, perhaps with great reluctance, sometimes more badly than well, if at all...

A new dad might change his baby's nappy a little more obliquely and creatively than the grandma who once raised seven children (all of them in cloth nappies!). The better half hates cleaning out the dishwasher (because for some reason it never ends) and keeps putting the dishes in the wrong cupboards. And the introverted colleague turns bright red during the presentation of the joint project and stutters with nervousness ("How embarrassing!"). 

When our fellow human beings bring themselves to do something that does not actually correspond to their strengths, preferences and experiences, this deserves recognition and encouragement. Even if someone else would have done it better. We should encourage each other more strongly to dare to do something again next time that does not come easily to us. At least as long as it is not a matter of life, death or losses that are difficult to bear.

So: more indulgence for what is "only so-la-la" and more recognition for the border crossers of the comfort zones. Hurray for the (still) imperfect!

VIABEL Foto Cornelia Fiedler

Über die Autorin

Cornelia Linnéa Fiedler ist Coach und systemische Beraterin. Sie arbeitet mit Menschen aller Altersgruppen und Hintergründe, online und weltweit. Ihre erste Lebenshälfte hat Cornelia in Deutschland verbracht, die zweite in Skandinavien. Sie war tätig in Unternehmen, Organisationen und Institutionen des Kultur-, Literatur- und Bildungsbereichs und hat sich dabei gemeinsam mit Kindern, Jugendlichen und Erwachsenen auf die Suche begeben nach dem, was für sie das Richtige ist. 

Ihr Motto lautet: "Wo ein Wunsch ist, ist auch ein Weg."