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How to Consistently Show Appreciation

How to consistently show appreciation

Showing appreciation is a universally accepted practice.  For centuries people have understood the impact that showing gratefulness has on social relationships.  Study after study verifies just how impactful appreciation can be in the workplace, in intimate relationships and in building social connections.  

With such an agreement on the benefits of showing appreciation, you would assume we all use this and have developed the expertise in appreciation.  Yet employees point to under appreciation as a main reason for unhappiness at work, divorced couples claim that they were taken for granted, and we often forget to show gratitude to strengthen relationships.

The reason is not that we don’t understand appreciation, or that we don’t know how to thank those around us.  It is simply that we have not developed the systems and habits that enforce that behavior.  Instead we gradually develop habits that do the exact opposite.  We thank those around us less and less without even realizing it.  Even though we may have high gratitude, those around us will likely start to feel taken for granted.

There are many ways to incorporate gratitude in our social interactions.  Find ways to create habits around it. 

I can recall when I first started working for a new organization.  There was one woman who seemed very passionate about her work.  Sometimes this would translate into an aggressive and hurtful approach.  I noticed that I did not have much interaction with her but that over time we started to pass each other in the hall and not acknowledge each other.  

At first I thought this was strange and assumed I must have upset her at some point.  Each interaction seemed to be more and more cold, yet I could not, for the life of me, figure out why.  

Finally I decided that it didn’t matter.  If I couldn’t figure out why, then maybe I didn’t do anything to upset this woman.  I made the decision that every time I passed her, I would say “Hello Sarah” and give a pleasant smile.  The first few times it seemed a little forced and I could tell it caught her off guard.  Because I made it a habit, she started to realize that I would always be the same way when I passed her.  

An amazing thing started to happen.  She started to go out of her way to say hello to me.  After a few months we started a project where we were working together frequently.  One day she came in and expressed concern that nobody in the office liked her.  She said everyone is so cold around her and that nobody even says hello anymore.

From this experience I realized something.  Over time how we act towards others get reflected back to us.  Everyone is different, but generally if you are appreciative towards those around you, then they will show the same appreciation back to you.  

Since then I have noticed that this is very true.  There are times when someone is very cold to me even if I try as hard as possible to be pleasant.  But the majority of the time, how I interact with someone is reflected in the manner that they interact with me!

They key for me was to create habits and systems that show appreciation to those around me.  When I do, it comes back tenfold.  It is amazing how much of a difference it makes to do this consistently rather than doing it when I think about it.  When I leave it to that I tend to show appreciation less and less over time.  Unless I put a focused effort into creating the necessary habits and systems, it always diminishes over time.  

Is there a way that you could change your interaction with someone that you care about?  Are you able to create a habit where every day when you come home from work, take 5 minutes to discuss the day with your significant other, incorporating how much you appreciate them?  Are you able to walk around during a stressful time at work and thank those that have helped you over the past week?

Regardless of how you build your system, understand that this can have a very positive impact on your life.  Nobody ever quit a job because they were over appreciated.  Relationships aren’t destroyed because of too much gratefulness.  Friendships aren’t weakened over time because of too much gratitude.