Appreciation – the practice of saying ‘thank you,’ which in English originally means, “I will remember what you did for me.” But, to build a culture of appreciation at work, we need to go beyond saying ‘thank you.’

Diana Chapman, the founder of Conscious Leadership Group, has found a new understanding for appreciation. It involves sensitive awareness – paying attention to the person or the situation, and then appreciating minute details and specifics.

For example, someone who loves art, will look at a painting and notice a range of things – color combinations, brush strokes, use of white space, etc. Another person might just say ‘how beautiful’, and move on. We want you to be the first kind of person. This capacity for fine-tuned awareness will help you find freshness in any situation or person. The specificity of details becomes a part of the delight.

A closer look at appreciation

With that definition in place, there are two things that need to happen for an appreciation to be effective – giving it, and receiving it. In this article, we look at how to appreciate masterfully. Chapman’s research shows that it includes four elements:

  1. Sincerity. Impactful appreciation weaves in three things – your thoughts (I think your gesture of recommending me for the job was timely, and supported my application.), your feelings (I feel grateful, excited, and prepared for the interview.), your experience(Without your help, it would have been harder for me to get noticed. Thank you for believing in my work.)
  2. Unarguable truth. This means sharing facts that are not debatable. Avoid opinions, judgements, or interpretations. “That was a great report” is arguable. “I appreciate the detailed appendices in this report. I feel at ease, with all the data at my fingertips” is unarguable.
  3. I liked the email you sent” is vague. “When you shared your reflections on time management in the email, it taught me something new about how to delegate” – this is specific. It helps the receiver understand their own behavior, and repeat the favorable ones.
  4. Succinct language. We’re not looking for lengthy tales of success. Says Chapman, a successful appreciation should be delivered in one breath or one exhale. More than that makes it arguable.

How to build sensitive awareness?

  • Step 1: Look around the place you are in right now, take a 360-degree view, and make a mental note of every green item you notice. Do this before moving to the next step.
  • Step 2: Now, open a sheet of blank paper, and make a list of all the blue items you noticed. Yes, just blue ones. Once done, look around to see what you missed.

The point of this: what you notice is what you are looking for. What you focus on, grows. Thus, if you look for strengths in people, you’ll find them. Same goes for criticism.  What would you choose?

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