Why there’s problems with appreciation

This week @sukhpabial posted a blog about the problem with appreciation and in the past I have written about the tangible power of appreciation.

One of the challenges that Sukh talks about is what it takes for him to appreciate something and he says for him it needs to ‘moved by it’ and ‘moved enough to want to express it’. Sukh also talks about how individual perception has an impact too as what may ‘move’ me may be different to you and how ‘moved’ you and I are will differ.

I think this is an interesting point as when it comes to organisational life and individual performance.  What I may see as ‘me doing my job’ you may see as something wonderful and amazing.  What I see as something where I have pushed myself well out of what is comfortable and done something bigger/better/different to normal… you  may see as run of the mill.

For example, I love listening.  Taking time to really hear what someone is (and isn’t) saying is something I find truly rewarding.  By the way, listening to me is more than the words people say.  It is the words and how they are put together into senstences (or utterances).  For example, I will listen for what they mean (semantically) what they imply (connotation) what words often occur with or near them (collocations) and when put together, what is the overall meaning

If you want to see more about this, I wrote a post called ‘what’s in words’ that you can find here.

As well as listening to the words, there is the prosody (how the words/sentence/utterance are said) as well as the facial expressions and body language (if I am face to face) that accompany the message.  How does it all fit together, are there moments when it does or doesn’t? What may be going on there.

I’ll write another blog post about what I mean by that soon.  For now, let me get back to appreciation.

What I hear from others is that they really value, welcome and benefit from my listening.  For me, it is just what I do and I know that it is important to continue to listen to the appreciation.

In terms of sharing the appreciation I think there are a few things at play and they are to do with impression management and credibility.  Some are about the individuls in the interaction and others are about what we think or feel that may mean wider than the interaction. To bring that to life a little more, I want to play it out in an organisational context.

The individual sharing the appreciation:
What will others think of me?
Will they think I am being sincere?
What if they suspect I’m just saying it to be nice?
Am I saying it just to be nice?
If I appreciate X for Y activity, what if they don’t do it again?
Or, what if they get too big for their boots?
What if someone else asks X to do Y and they don’t do it as well, will it reflect on me?

For the individual being appreciated:

What will others think of me?
Do I deserve that?
Do they mean it?
They’ve never said this before, why are they saying it now, are they being genuine?
Oh no, will everyone expect that from me more often or all the time?
Will other people think I am ‘brown nosing’?

As people we negotiate a role for ourself, especially in conversation and day to day interaction. When we have a lot of those interacitons (i.e. at work) we start to create an ‘expected line’ or likely behaviour that others will expect of and accept from us. For example, I have negotiated my ‘space’ in interaction on social media as someone that talks about emotion and credibility, especially in the context of HR/L&OD. So, if I all of a sudden started writing about the economy, trends and patters you’d wonder where it came from (plus @flipchartrick is brilliant at it).

So, when comin back to Sukh’s post, if as individuals we haven’t set that line (that we give appreciation), it will be hard for us and others to accept us when we do.  Also, this is why it is easier to ‘reinvent’ ourselves when we move jobs. We are yet to negotiate a line for ourselves, so we can start from scratch.

This leaves us in a bit of a praradox.

It is hard, uncomfortable and leaves us open to challenge, criticism and suspicion if we start to appreciate.
We’d need to do it consistently and well so that we can carve out the space to do so and for others to accept it.
That seems like an awful lot of hard work.
So I could just stay quiet and continue as I have been.
Yeah…. maybe I’ll do that… it is a lot easier

If that is the destination, that is a shame, a real shame.

I guess I’ll just have to add some more into the world until you are ready to negotiate it as part of who you are and what you do.


Thank you.  I am so pleased you chose to read this post as there is a lot of stuff you could invest your time in and you chose to do it reading this.  I am humbly grateful.  Enjoy the rest of your day.


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