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Appreciation:a powerful gift that brings people closer

January 5, 2013

Tell someone today you appreciate their efforts, kindness or willingness to accept you. Appreciation is a powerful tool that can mean the difference between feeling close to someone versus feeling of taken advantage of and resentful.  The holidays are a good time to express this, but you don’t always need to wait to for a holiday to reward someone with appreciation.

Many psychological studies have demonstrated that asking someone to do you a favor within reasonable limits and then expressing appreciation can be a sure fire way of strengthening the relationship. On the contrary when appreciation is not outwardly expressed it can destroy the intimate bound between 2 people since it leaves the “favor doer” feeling like “Hey I invested in you. Can you at least acknowledge my contribution here?”

Often times people don’t express appreciation because they don’t think it needs to be stated outright. They will claim my mother, friend or lover knows how I feel about them. Or others will state about their employees, bosses, doorman, delivery people, etc. that “it’s their job and what they get paid for”.  This might be objectively true to some extent, yes your employees do get paid to do a job well done; your boss receives a handsome salary so he “should” cover for you when you are out and yes deep down your family and friends might know you care and appreciate them but its still not enough.thank you

The proof that expectation based on role assignment is not sufficient is in how people behave, since not every boss, employee, service provider will do what is “expected” based on their job role or salary.  Not every boss gives you feedback. Not every mother  drives their kids to soccer or saves money for college tuition. Not every friend will meet you at the ER in the middle of the night or help you make an important decision. Not every sibling will fly across the country to visit. This is proof that not everyone does what is “expected based on assigned social role” and that is why appreciation is helpful and necessary…especially if you want others to continue to behave in giving ways.

Without appreciation even eager “favor doers ” will eventually trickle down their willingness to lend a hand, will start to cut corners at work and eventually start to avoid family members, friends and coworkers who “only want something from them”. This is because once people feel under appreciated they no longer feel motivated to participated in the needs of others. It’s a simple but necessary reward system.
Appreciation is as basic as having a working computer and reasonable chair in an office setting ….without it people begin to develop despair and resentment.

Case story

Case story: Michelle is a 42 year old woman who has 2 siblings, 36 and 45. Her younger sister for the last 5 years has had many personal struggles. Michelle is the type to rarely asks for help even when she is having a hard time but is often the first to help a friend or sibling. When her younger sister began leaning on Michelle, at first she was eager to pitch in.. flying out of town to comfort her, helping her relocate, advising her in business concerns, reading through legal name it she was there ready to act like a good big sister. But as the weeks went on Michelle started to feel slightly let down each time she pitched in when there was little or no “thank you”. She would tell herself ‘she is my sister it’s okay. I know she appreciates me. I’m sure if the situation was reversed she would go out of her way for me.’ Always followed by ‘if I asked’. But Michelle never asked and Lisa never seemed to offer a hand or a word of gratitude. Lisa was making the error of filing all of Michelle’s help under “this is what family is supposed to do” and came to expect it rather than appreciate it. The impact on their relationship was profound.

What to askthecbt1.jpgdo when you feel under appreciated: 

Well I’ll tell you what I told Michelle and many other clients

  • 1. First and foremost, only give without the expectation of receiving it back. Smart People who lend friends money know they should not expect it back.
  • 2 Give to the limit where you won’t feel resentful for giving. It’s the same principle when you go gambling, bring what you can afford to lose and look at the cost as part of the experience.
  • 3 Assert yourself – ask for a thank you. “You know Lisa I really like helping you. It makes me feel closer to you when I’m able to assist my sister. But I have driven out to you 4 times in the last 2 months and I don’t think you said thank you once. I know you care about me but I need to hear it once in awhile. I have my struggles too and when I put agenda aside to help you it would be nice to know it means something to you. A simple text or email would suffice”
  • 4 Ask for Simple small favors in an assertive manner if they don’t get it at first. “Lisa I know things are hectic for you. But I don’t ask for much and this thing I’m asking you to do might seem trite to you but if it was then I probably would not ask. I’m asking because its important to me. You don’t have to get it but I wish you could help me out any way with this. “
  • 5 Reassess the boundaries and definition of what you expect in the relationship. As I stated in the beginning of this blog post not every relationship comes with the rule “I must do everything this person asks because they are….”
  • 6. Appreciate your self by making a gratitude list..I am grateful I am can be in a position to help. I like being a helpful sibling. I am proud of myself for making smart decisions in this way….
  • 7. Restructure how you process the request for help. I often teach my clients to tease apart their observations and how they process/assess that information that feeds their reactions. Observation–>Assessment Style–>Reaction

Michelle’s automatic style of thinking was to observe Lisa’s emails as “she NEEDS me” rather than “Lisa is asking for help”. The second assessment strategy allows her to feel in control because she can process it as “I have a choice in whether I assist or not”. The first point of view (“she needs me”) lead her to process it under “I feel forced and obligated. I am a bad sister if I don’t give her what she needs”.
Old View: O she needs me. A. I m bad if I leave her without her needs R I feel obligated and frustrated
New O she is asking me. A I have a choice in how much I give R I feel in control. I’ll give to the point where it won’t deplete me

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