If you had to name the one thing that keeps relationships running smoothly, what would it be?
Love never goes amiss, certainly. But you don't have to knock around the planet for a whole lot of years to know that not everyone means the same thing by 'love'; and some people's idea of love is a tad controlling, or tough, for other people.
Respect definitely has its place. But a lot of us have had the unpleasant experience of being at the receiving end of people demanding respect. Sadly, respect isn't always a two-way street. And it doesn't always come combined with love and warmth.
Sex – well we can hardly overlook it, can we? - has its place. Lovemaking is a precious aspect of a healthy, intimate relationship. But it's not going to be the thing that keeps all your relationships running smoothly.
The thing that I would – do – nominate is appreciation.
Appreciation, generally speaking, is seriously under-used, and under-valued.
Criticism, whether or not that's constructive criticism, is something that most of us seem comfortable using. The old notion of sparing the rod and spoiling the child still casts a long shadow over society. Most of us seem to feel that giving too much appreciation will give the person on the receiving end an inflated idea of their own importance.
In all my years of coaching, I haven't encountered too many truly confident people – that is to say, people who feel truly comfortable with the idea that they are worthy, lovable people. Most of us – if we're lucky – are confident in some areas of our life, but not in EVERY area of our life.
That's what makes appreciation so valuable.
Most people can do with more appreciation in their lives. A lot of people are downright hungry for appreciation. Either they don't get it, or else they have been so well trained not to 'get above themselves', that they don't hear it. (You probably know people who make dismissing appreciation/compliments an art form. Maybe one or two of those people are very close to home, indeed. When anyone says something positive, they quickly reply: “That? Oh, it's nothing special.” So, instead of hearing the positive thing, they simply reinforce their own belief about being nothing special.)
How do you get more appreciation into your life?
Well, you could start by giving yourself some appreciation!!! I know that sounds faintly indecent but, think about it: denying yourself appreciation isn't a fabulous way to encourage, motivate, and inspire yourself. Appreciating yourself means catching yourself doing something right and giving yourself the credit for it. (As opposed to catching yourself doing something 'wrong' and giving yourself hell for it.)
You could, also, start to offer appreciation, occasionally, to the adults in your life that you don't habitually express appreciation for. (Funny, isnit it, how for a lot of us, that means our 'nearest and dearest'?)
Why should you show appreciation to the people in your life who aren't showing you too much appreciation? Because appreciation has to start somewheere. If you start the process, then you can be sure it will start. Whereas, if you leave it to someone else, it may – or may not – happen.
And in case you're wondering, will they think you are being insincere? They probably won't. The chances are they'll be too busy basking in the good feelings. If they do, then that is their problem to deal with, not yours. You can only do a right thing, you can't make other people experience it in the way in which it is intended.
Appreciation is a brilliant tool. It can transform relationships, and open the way to a more meaningful dialogue, where there has been little true communication before. For many of my clients it has transformed the relationship with parents, partners, children, and friends.
We all want to be heard and acknowledged. Showing appreciation gives another person that experience. When they truly take that gift on board, chances are, they'll want to start giving more back to you, too.
Who are you appreciating?