It seems appropriate as our weekly blog entry falls on Thanksgiving, and so it’s worth writing about the language of appreciation.
When I am asked how many languages I speak, I reply “two, English and appreciation.”
It may seem cliché, but if you are willing to take a moment and consider, it is its own dialect. It requires commitment, repetition, and consistent usage to become natural like any language.
I may know a few common words or expressions in Spanish, but I wouldn’t suggest that I speak it fluently. Similarly, most of us may offer an occasional praise or gratitude, but that is not the same as appreciation being a primary vernacular.
The benefit of conscious appreciation is that it's fuel that inspires and invigorates relationships. If you make a commitment to increase acknowledgements and accolades for those you share relationships, the dynamics are likely to instantly shift and become more connected!
As an object in motion stays in motion, once you start enjoying a high momentum, it’s easier to maintain it.
Like any language, there are some basic grammatical rules. So, here are a handful of tips.
1. NO BUTS ABOUT IT
Whenever you extend a compliment, it’s best to avoid using the word “but” in the same sentence. It tends to have an adverse effect and will likely cancel out the positive intention.
2. I LOVE YOU, BUT
Double-down on the previous tip and do your best to avoid saying “I Love you, but…” This phrase amplifies the aforementioned result (in the previous tip) and often devalues the appreciation. Why? It is likely to be received as a back-handed compliment (which is actually a criticism in disguise). It also has the unforeseen consequence of weakening the impact and sentiment even when you solely express “I Love you” itself as the receiver is likely conditioned to wait for the accompanying critique.
3. THE POWER OF INTENTION
As human beings, we possess a single super power; intention. When we are clear in our intention, the words and actions that follow possess a palpable clarity and strength. We are empowered.
4. BE SINCERE
When you speak with others, be sincere and say only what you intend without exaggeration.
5. BE SPECIFIC
When appreciating, general or generic doesn’t come close to a concise sentiment that really lets the other person experience being valued and seen. For example, “thanks for dinner” doesn’t sound or have the same effect as “Thank you very much for cooking dinner. The steak was juicy and tasted exceptional, the mashed potatoes were creamy, and the salad crisp and fresh. I bet you put in a lot of effort. It was delicious.”
See what I mean? This also has the added benefit of expanding your awareness of what you appreciate in another, which leads to even more appreciation. It’s a wonderful cycle!
6. NEVER AND ALWAYS
Avoid using the words “never” and “always.” Rarely are these two words truly befitting.
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Here is a set of questions to help you discover how you prefer to be appreciated (and inquire with others how they enjoy being too).
1. How do you most like to be appreciated?
a. Verbally, written, or ____________________?
b. Alone, with partner or friends, in public or ____________________?
c. With or without gifts (flowers, cards, orchestra)?
2. What body sensations let you know you are expanding your capacity to receive appreciation?
3. What does your partner / friends do that really works in appreciating you?
4. What timing do you like best for appreciations? For example, do you like to receive appreciations regularly, be surprised by them, or get a bunch at once?
5. What qualities, skills and attributes do you display that you would like appreciated more?
6. What qualities about yourself, that you’ve improved or changed, would you be open to truly appreciating?
7. What’s the current frequency of appreciation in your relationship? Would you like to place a different order?
8. Day to day, what actions / events between you and your partner / friends result in you experiencing being most appreciated?