Let's Practice Non-Random Acts of Kindness and Appreciation Too
The other day I was talking to a friend and she shared that she often feels unappreciated. This is someone who gives 100% to all of her endeavors. She does so much in the lives of children through her work and volunteer activities. The interesting thing is that I know for a fact that so many people appreciate her. So I started wondering why more people don’t tell her or show her that they appreciate her. It doesn’t cost anything to let someone know we appreciate them and yet it one of those acts of kindness that can truly make a big difference in a person’s life and how they are feeling.
I began thinking about the idea of ‘random acts of kindness ‘and how much I love that whole premise of doing kind acts for someone anonymously or even for a stranger. After my conversation with my friend, however, I started thinking that perhaps we also need to start a movement of ‘Non-Random Acts of Kindness ‘which would include practicing ‘Non-Random Acts of Appreciation’. This would be aimed at those we know well, those who we interact with regularly and those who we might even take for granted.
I would encourage you to make a list of people that you come into contact with often in the course of a week. Include your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community members, your children’s teachers, coaches, community workers, and others who you interact with frequently or regularly. Look at each name and if you can, list a word or sentence that may capture something about the person that you appreciate. Next is the most important part - decide to express your appreciation to each of those people. Find a way to let them know that you appreciate them and what it is that you appreciate. You might consider engaging in this act of kindness in person, on the phone, in an email, or a text or even to make is awesome, write it down in your own handwriting on a piece of paper and give it to them or mail it to them.
I believe that every person needs to feel appreciated. We may often think about how much we appreciate others but it seems to me that we rarely express it or at least not often enough. As a grief counselor who listens to many grieving children, teens, and adults, I can’t tell you just how many people have shared with me, with heartfelt sadness, that they regret not letting the person who died, know while they were alive, just how important they were, or how loved or appreciated they were. One father who I had the privilege of visiting with, just a day after he found out his teenage daughter was killed in a car crash while at college, shared with me through tears, that he never got to tell his teenage daughter all of the things he appreciated about her. He said he often told his co-workers what he appreciated about them, but never his own children. He vowed from that day forward that he would never let a day go by that he won’t let those he loves and cares about not know how much he appreciates them. I will never, ever forget his words or his pained expression.
I have had many conversations with other grievers too; very much like that one with the dad, and each has had a profound effect on me. I can honestly say that I now make it a practice to frequently and freely express my love, appreciation and gratitude to those around me. I thank all of my courageously honest grieving families for helping me to learn to do that. I don’t want to wait until a funeral to express my appreciation, but to tell them while they are alive today just how important they are and what they mean to me. Plus I love making people smile and letting them know we appreciate them is a great way to do spread the joy and love.
I don’t want this wonderful friend of mine, who I know is greatly appreciated, to do another day feeling unappreciated. We know that that those who feel unappreciated often begin to feel resentment and bitterness, which can even cause people to re-evaluate their work, time and energy output and their relationships. Please don’t let another day go by without letting someone you appreciate know that you truly do appreciate him or her.
One of my favorite books on this subject is The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, by Gary Chapman and Paul White. This book is great. Did you know that the number one factor in job satisfaction is not amount of pay but whether or not the individual feels appreciated and valued for the work they do?
Gary Chapman, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling The 5 Love Languages, explains in this book as well as The 5 Languages of Appreciation, that there are five ways in which we can express love or in this case appreciation: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Tangible Gifts and Physical Touch. We don’t all speak the same language when it comes to love or appreciation. Some languages are tougher for us than others to express. Learning what languages are primary for those around you, at home, school or at work, as well as what your primary languages are can be so valuable. This concept can greatly change the entire climate at work, school, home or even on a team.
I have used this concept from Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, with my own children and we have had each of them rate all 5 languages on a bar graph. It is easy to see which are their favorite or primary languages. We used to hang their graphs in the kitchen. Every time I went by, I was reminded that each one of my children had a different primary love language. One loves gifts, while one loves quality time, another loves words of affirmation and my oldest appreciates acts of service. Not only did it help me to know them better, it helped me know that they were experiencing my expressions of appreciation and love in a way that they could feel. All too often people will say, “I know he or she says they love me or appreciate me but I don’t feel it.” Maybe because without this awareness, we tend to give others what we ourselves like or something that is in our language of appreciation but it isn’t their language. Gifts are my least favorite language. However, I have a child who rates gifts as her #1 language of love and appreciation. If I only use words of affirmation, which I like, to express my appreciation for her, she may not really feel loved and appreciated as much as she does when we go out and shop even if it is for something small. My other child, who appreciates acts of service, doesn’t feel that gifts or touch convey love and appreciation as much as doing a favor for her, perhaps when she isn’t even home. Knowing that I was thinking of her enough to do that errand makes all the difference for her.
Words of affirmation are when language that uses words to communicate a positive message to another person. When we use this language we are verbally affirming a positive characteristic about a person. We can praise someone for his or her accomplishments in a specific way. For example saying, “Thanks for showing up early and making sure we were ready to go when the students arrived” is far more effective than, “Thanks, you did a good job.” We can praise someone for a character trait including perseverance, courage, honesty, humility, compassion, kindness, etc. I find this one the easiest to do. Write a note, send a text or tell someone in person. Use your words to convey your appreciation especially if the person you are communicating with understands words of affirmation as their primary language.
The second appreciation language is quality time. By giving quality time you give your undivided attention. This could mean a quality conversation, where two share thoughts and feelings in a friendly, uninterrupted context. This is more about creating a safe environment in which you can listen to the person and they can share their accomplishments, frustrations and suggestions. Another form of this language is shared experiences. Sylvia Hatchell, women’s basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, attributes the success of her teams to her understanding of the 5 languages of appreciation. “If I know that one of my girls’ language of appreciation is Words of Affirmation, then I look for ways to give her encouraging words. But if I discover that her appreciation language is Quality Time, I will invite her to my house on Saturday and we’ll wash our cars together. It builds a bond, and she goes away knowing that I genuinely appreciate her as a person. When my girls feel appreciated they are highly motivated to give me their best on the court.”
A third language of appreciation is Acts of Service. This means that some feel appreciated when others reach out to help them. Ask first of course, but if the person agrees and would like some help, do it with a cheerful attitude. This can be particularly wonderful when a co-worker who speaks this particular language had been falling behind due to illness or grief. Asking if they need some help can go a long way in supporting them through a rough time.
A fourth language is tangible gifts. Giving the right gift to a person who appreciates tangible rewards can send a powerful message of thanks, appreciation and encouragement. Conversely, giving a gift to someone who doesn’t really appreciate gifts has little impact. So give a gift to those who appreciate gifts. Give a gift that the person values. As many of my Facebook friends know, each morning I wake up and have my coffee while I peruse through sites to come up with three inspirational or motivational quotes to share on FB. It is something I have been doing for about two years and I love sharing quotes. Many tell me how much they look forward to those morning words of inspiration. The other day I received a letter in the mail. It was a thank you note that someone had written to me thanking me for my words of inspiration and true stories about positive interactions that I so often have and then share on FB. The person used my primary language, which is words of affirmation, and she even included a gift card in her note. I must admit that gifts are not one of my languages of appreciation, but it was a gift card to Dunkin Donuts, which I absolutely love. I often share how much I love coffee and DD in particular on FB, so it really touched me that in addition to her words, she sent me something that she knows I love. That meant so much to me.
The fifth language of appreciation is physical touch, when done appropriately. Many share that they really feel important when someone shakes their hand as a means of communicating a job well done. Some enjoy a high five. Sometimes a pat on the back by a supportive friend can be inspiring. Cross culturally researches have found that a pat on the back is almost universally accepted as an act that communicates appreciation. Business schools have recently begun to research the impact of touch on individuals’ behavior in work-based interactions. Some appreciate a hand on the shoulder along with a compliment. During times of grief or loss, many express that a hug goes a long way.
I encourage you all to get at least one of the following books by Gary Chapman: the Five Love Languages, The Five Love Languages of Children, The Five Love Languages of Teenagers as well as The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.
I will close this long blog with two quotes:
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
~ William Arthur Ward
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the power to turn a life around.”
~ Leo Buscaglia.
I appreciate all of you,
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