The problem with appreciation

There is a reserve, amongst us English types, that runs quite deep when it comes to appreciation of things and others. It’s almost seen as a weakness, and that is truly baffling.

It’s easier to destroy things than it is to create things. Take love as an example. It takes time to fall in love, to cultivate that love, for it to be shared, to express it and to feel it. It can come undone so very quickly, though, and in much less time than it took for it to exist in the first place.

Architecture is a thing of wonder. People coming up with ideas of space and buildings and go out of their way to construct things of beauty which others can enjoy for various purposes. And in no time at all a wrecking ball can lay waste to someone’s idea.

Cooking is something I’ll never understand. I eat to survive and be sustained, nothing more nothing less. I enjoy well cooked food, but do not care one way or t’other about how it is necessarily cooked or with what care. Chefs and people who do care spend inordinate amounts of time producing food that matters for the pleasure of others. And a critic or a bad review can make you reconsider that choice.

Appreciation is hard because it goes quite deep into who we are.

For me to appreciate something, I have to be moved by it. I have to be moved by it enough that I want to express it. My expression of it is a symbol of the meaning it has to me.

Appreciation is about accepting others for who they are and what they produce. It’s blind to discrimination and is open to criticism. If I openly express my appreciation, that is only my perception. Others cannot hold that same opinion as they’ve not experienced it in the same way.

Appreciation is bordering with vulnerability. If I appreciate something in you, I recognise it’s something I value in you. I want to share that with you and that opens me up to hearing your reaction. Expressing your appreciation is no guarantee of reciprocity. The other person is under no obligation to respond kindly.

Appreciation is a sole act. It happens because you are of the opinion it is valuable to express it. It is almost, by definition, a selfless act. Expectation of a response is perhaps reasonable, but a folly in truth.

Appreciation is an exercise in self growth. When I take the time to appreciate something or someone, I take the time to understand what that means to me. I reflect and consider the impact on me. That thought process is powerful and helps me know me better, and helps others know their strengths.

We’re in an age where there is a lot of everything available to us. Our expectations of things, services, other people are almost unreasonable. When it really is that easy to stop using one service and picking up another in a day, why would you be loyal? It truly takes great service for it to be shared and expressed openly.

Which is a shame.

At work, there’s always a pressure to get things done. Managers have known for many a year that recognition of efforts and of others is an important way to engage with their teams. But most recognition efforts tend to be locally focused. That is, they tend not to get shouted about.

Which is a shame.

My ask is that we take that time to appreciate.

I’m holding an open workshop on 24th April in Birmingham on how to apply Positive Psychology to daily life. Full details here.


Published by

Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “The problem with appreciation”

  1. Some of the points you make are also for me right at the heart of the ‘performance appraisal’ debate. It isn’t the concept of a review, how often you have one or even necessarily the process (although some are horrible) it is often simply that we find it hard to talk about such things. Operational stuff, meetings, agendas, budgets etc etc are all fine. But a good performance review requires us to dig deeper as individuals, reflecting on ourselves and others. To give meaningful feedback, positive or that which is difficult to hear. It includes appreciation, genuine consideration, having those conversations for the good of the other person. This is why I believe so many people report dissatisfaction with the reviews they are part of – because so many people don’t engage on this level. Setting a SMART objective is so much easier.

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