A few years into our relationship, my boyfriend and I had “the talk.”
No, not that one. The other talk.
It has always bothered me how people say “thanks” when they don’t seem to mean it. I explained that just offering an obligatory “thanks” to someone who put love or effort into something feels hollow to me. I had been in relationships with people who didn’t express appreciation and, not surprisingly, I never felt appreciated. I asked him if we could change our language and say “I appreciate you/that because….” He heard me out, smiled and agreed to my verbal edit.
Luckily for me, this boyfriend didn’t run away. In fact, sixteen years later, my now-husband is still a great match for my woo-woo ideas about communication, vision and intention. And he also reminds me to lighten up when I get too caught up in the details.
A couple years ago, I introduced a new game at our family dinners. I called it “the appreciation game.” The framework is simple: you share something you appreciate about another person at the table, and then it becomes their turn to share an appreciation for someone else. (You can also choose something or someone to appreciate outside of the group, and then choose who will go next.) You keep sharing appreciations of each other until you run out of ideas or until someone asks for more milk. Whichever comes first.
The minute we began, my kids (ages 3 and 5, at the time) were very into it. They hung on our words and relished being appreciated by their parents in this new way. And they really got into expressing appreciation, too. While we covered the good deeds (kind gestures, being helpful, sharing toys) we aimed our appreciations higher than what they did and focused on WHO they are.
The seeds of appreciation have been planted. I’ll have to report back in a decade or so if our boys have really embraced this concept.
I wish I could tell you that this was born from the wisdom of wanting to be a good parent. I wish I could tell you that I was thinking of the greater good and our impact on the world through small actions.
It was entirely, 100% created from the completely frustrating feeling of being unappreciated. In all the roles I played in my life, I didn’t have an intention for appreciation and gratitude, which meant I wasn’t modeling it for my children. I realized I had to show them how to give and how to receive appreciation deliberately, thoughtfully and lovingly. What we model is far more powerful than our words.
Telling someone you appreciate them, and telling them why, has the power to transform a moment. Keep doing it and it will improve your relationships. Turn appreciation into a habit and it will transform your life.
In case it isn’t abundantly clear, appreciation is really important to me: it is both a need and a value. (I know this for sure because I’m a coach, and we have assessments to “prove” things like this.)
I’ve brought this focus on appreciation into my coaching work, too. I begin coaching sessions, retreats, and workshops with an acknowledgment of what is working in the client’s life. For the Vision Board Workshops, this process is especially important. When your vision is grounded in a deep appreciation for your gifts, relationships, and circumstances, you can dream even bigger. I believe it is easier to play big in your life,when you are tuned into what is working.
Where can you show up with appreciation for your life’s gifts? How can you change your language, get specific and connect with someone from a place of sincere gratitude?
If this topic grabbed your attention, you aren’t alone. This topic shifted me into a new path for myself. Let’s talk about how gratitude can pave the way for deeper love and connection.
“Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.”
– Hellen Keller