Giving Thanks: Recognition Versus Appreciation

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November 25, 2014 by Lisa Brammer

It’s that time again to give thanks with friends and family—to show appreciation for all that we have in our lives.  And while I think it’s great that we actually have a holiday that’s all about appreciation, the thing is, appreciation is something we should practice each and every day of our lives.

If you are like me the daily acts of living life can get in the way of actually appreciating our life and all that is in it.  For me, this is true in my personal life as well as my professional one. There is a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that I love, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  This quote inspires me to remember to enjoy the journey—appreciating the moments and people within them. Sometimes we focus so much on the prize we are striving for that we do not recognize that the prize is those daily interactions with people within those moments.

The Department of Labor conducted a survey and found that 64% of the people surveyed said that they left a job because they felt unappreciated.  That huge percentage doesn’t really surprise me because I, myself, left a position for that exact reason. I left because I felt unappreciated.

When I first set out to write the blog this week I, not unlike a lot of people, decided that this week’s installment would be about appreciation.  I did a Google search and found a TED video entitled “The Power of Appreciation” by Mike Robbins. And in this video Mike talks about how people sometimes mistake recognition for appreciation—they are not the same thing. That statement really struck a chord with me because when I left that position it was not because I wasn’t recognized for the positive contributions I made within the organization, but because I did not feel appreciated as a person.

When someone accomplishes something—and this can be a big sale at work, an “A” on a child’s test paper, or simply a spouse doing the dishes—we are likely to recognize the accomplishment and that’s great we should, but sometimes the sale does not happen and the “grade” is not made and yet these moments still need validation.  If you can make people feel appreciated during these moments—when their light is not shining bright—how great would that be?

Haas School of Business at University of California, Berkeley conducted a study and found that if people are recognized for their contributions; productivity is increased by 23 %.  This same study found that if people feel appreciated—valued and cared for—their productivity increased by 43%.

Mike Robbins points out in the TED video that you don’t have to like someone or be friends with someone to appreciate them.  We just have to recognize their value or a good quality they are exhibiting.

It’s been found that practicing acts of kindness towards others releases the feel-good hormone serotonin into our brains.  So both the person receiving the kindness and the person expressing the kindness get the serotonin boost.  How great is that?  So when you get together with your family on Thursday and you dread seeing that uncle of yours who is always bragging about his accomplishments, look for a quality you can admire in him like the tender way he plays with your cousin. The same goes for when you get back to work on Friday.  Look at the person who normally annoys you and see if you can find something to appreciate about them and maybe someone will do the same for you.

During this time of thanksgiving, I’m going to look around and really appreciate the people in my lives and express this appreciation to them and hopefully with a little practice I can make this a part of my daily life, not just something I do on the fourth Thursday in November.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving everyone.

If you would like to check out Mike Robbins video, click on http://mike-robbins.com/tedx-the-power-of-appreciation/.

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