Throughout the year, there are various peak busy seasons where our skills, knowledge, and effort are in most demand. During these times, it feels like our lives revolve around fulfilling everyone else’s needs, demands, expectations, and timing. And, if we’re not careful, we can begin to feel like all our efforts are taken for granted.
There are many things that keep us going and motivated. In fact, there are 9 professional motivators that impact each of us to some extent, and which motivator is most important to us varies by person, and can change based on life circumstances. When it comes to surviving our busy seasons, I know feeling appreciated is the motivator that means the most to me. When I am going the extra mile, sacrificing time with loved ones and partaking in my hobbies, I want to know the effort is being acknowledged and appreciated by the recipients of my time. American philosopher and psychologist, William James said, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”
Knowing how important this is to each of us, why do so many of us feel under appreciated at times? And why do we struggle ourselves to communicate appreciation? Before we get frustrated that others don’t take the time to acknowledge us, let’s take a moment to see if we are missing “hidden” signs of appreciation.
Focusing on the negative. Our inner voice is not always our friend in stressful situations. It can replay all the complaints and disappointments we receive in a week instead of reminding us of the clients that gave us a warm smile and handshake at the end of their meeting, or were amazed at the depth of knowledge we have.
We need to counteract this tendency to focus on the negative by highlighting the wins in other ways.
- In our teams’ daily huddles, have everyone share a story of a client that appreciated the work we or the team provided. Remember, not everyone on the team gets to see the impact of our work on the client. We have to take the time to intentionally share the wins with them, too
- Keep a piece of paper next to our computers and draw a star or make a hashmark every time someone shows us a sign of appreciation. Then, look at that sheet filling up as our inner voice reminds us of the one negative comment we got that day
- Print an email where a client or colleague shared their appreciation of us and put it someplace visible so we have that quick reminder of the good work we do
Be present in the moment. Are we missing signs of appreciation because we are so focused on rushing to the next meeting? Appreciation can be observed in colleagues and clients when the tension leaves their face or body at the end of their meeting, they are smiling more, they are speaking with more optimism, they’re referring family and friends to us. These signs of appreciation can be easily missed by not being present in the moment, and thinking about the next thing on our task list instead. We can’t actually accomplish anything with that next client while we are with this client, so watch for the signals and make note of them.
Misinterpretations. There are times we can misinterpret an action or statement we observe which can be deflating. For instance, our team is having a huddle and someone is thanking everyone that worked on a project but they didn’t mention us. For many of us, the ugly interpretations of why that happened starts to fill our minds. “They didn’t appreciate my work.” “They gave all the credit to their friends.” “They must not like me or think I didn’t do a good job.”
We need to stop this train of thought and start to think of all the hopeful reasons. “They ran out of time to list everyone.” “They didn’t realize I contributed to this project.” “They were trying to highlight the newest team members to encourage them.” or “they overlooked mentioning me by mistake.” If generating these more hopeful interpretations of their omission doesn’t relieve our disappointment, then approach the person to inquire about the comment. Give the person the chance to explain what happened. This way we don’t waste precious energy ruminating on something that may have been a complete mistake, and if there was feedback to receive, we open ourselves up to be gifted with those comments to make changes for the future.
Speaking different languages. Miscommunication takes place because we are using different languages of appreciation. Gary Chapman wrote the book “The 5 Love Languages” which helps couples identify how they communicate love. In the workplace, love is expressed as appreciation and he wrote these 5 languages are applicable in office dynamics as well. The 5 languages are:
- acts of service
- words of affirmation
- physical touch (like a hand shake, pat on the shoulder)
- quality time
Typically, people use the language that relates to their preference to show appreciation or love to others. By being aware of the different ways we express appreciation at work, we can better translate how others are communicating. Someone that values acts of service may do the dishes in the breakroom or offer to take a follow up action instead of you doing so. The person that looks for words of affirmation may feel minimal appreciation because they aren’t translating that action into their language. Let’s observe the actions, gestures, and words others use and to see if they are trying to express appreciation in a different language.
If we don’t see a lot of acknowledgement and appreciation taking place, we can start it and encourage it – by sharing this blog, for instance. Practice expressing our gratitude for our colleagues, clients and family and watch how others begin to reciprocate.
THANK YOU for what you do!