How to Receive the Gift of Appreciation

by Karl Smerecnik on October 21, 2011

October is Appreciate Others Month. One way I have been sharing my appreciation for others is to write a letter of appreciation each day to someone who has touched my life. During this month I have been thinking a lot about not only how I can better share my appreciation with others but also how to receive the gift of appreciation.

I sometimes struggle to fully accept other people’s appreciation and I can have a tendency of shrugging it off or dismissing it. I have also witnessed this in the society in which I live. Someone offers appreciation or a compliment and the receiver responds somewhat uncomfortably with, “oh, it’s nothing.”

Have you ever experienced this situation, on both the giving and receiving side? Have you ever found it hard to know how to respond when someone pays you a compliment? Why is it that receiving appreciation can feel uncomfortable at times?

I believe it’s because when appreciation is shared in the form of a compliment that labels someone, even if it’s a “positive” label, the receiver is likely to feel uncomfortable because they hear the appreciation as an evaluation (see The Difference Between Compliments and Appreciation).

It has been my experience that when someone says, “you are so good at…” or “you’re such a talented…” or even just starts the sentence with “you are…,” I struggle to hear the appreciation and instead hear evaluation. Some people may enjoy being evaluated as “good” or “talented” but what comes up for me when I am evaluated (even if it’s “good” evaluation) is a feeling of discomfort because I am wanting a sense of emotional safety. The reason that this need isn’t being fully met in this situation is because I see the potential for this person to also label me as “bad.” This is a good example of why evaluations and labels, whether “positive” or “negative,” can create disconnection.

Rather, I enjoy the experience much more of knowing what is alive in the other person and hearing if they felt inspired, experienced beauty, or had certain needs met by what I contributed. When someone shares their appreciation by using “I” statements instead of “You” statements, it can be much more enjoyable to hear and can more fully give us a sense of being appreciated.

Though I’m speaking primarily from my experience, I am inclined to believe that this may be a cause of why it makes people uncomfortable. Do you resonate with this?

I want to emphasize the fact that no one makes you feel uncomfortable by what they say. How we hear people is up to us and no one makes us feel the way we do. Our feelings are an indication of our inner state, of what needs of ours are met and not met.

How to Receive the Gift of Appreciation

1. Listen for what is alive in the person sharing appreciation. Regardless of the words someone uses, train yourself to hear what universal human need someone is trying to meet beneath what they are saying. If you can connect with their longing to share appreciation, it won’t matter what words they use and you will be able to more easily enjoy their gift of appreciation.

2.┬áLet go of self-evaluations. If we let go of our own self-evaluations of being “good” or “bad,” we will be less likely to hear “good” and “bad” from others. In other words, when we no longer evaluate ourselves with labels and judgments, it will be easier not to hear evaluations from others and instead hear their appreciation in a new way.

3. Appreciate yourself. It’s going to be difficult to hear others’ appreciation for us when we have a belief or thought that we are not worthy of appreciation. Though I recognize that this is a large topic in and of itself, start by thinking about just one quality of yours that you enjoy. Try appreciating just one thing you have done, no matter how big or small, that you think is pretty cool. Some would say, the more you learn to appreciate yourself, the more you will experience others’ appreciation for you.

And in an attempt to not always be so serious, here is a funny Jerry Seinfeld joke that is somewhat relevant:

I love it when people are complimented on something they’re wearing and they accept the compliment as if it was about them. “Nice tie.” “Well, thank you. Thank you very much.” The compliment is for the tie, it’s not for you, but we take it. That’s kind of the job of clothes; to get compliments for us, because it’s very hard to get compliments based on your human qualities. Right? Let’s face it, no matter how nice a person you are, nobody’s gonna come say “Hey, nice person.” It’s much easier to be a bastard and just try and match the colors up. - Jerry Seinfeld

How do you enjoy receiving the gift of appreciation?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Yvonne October 26, 2011 at 02:26

I appreciate this post Karl. I am so thrilled you said write a letter of appreciation. We so often fall back on email and I appreciate a nice hand written note. Thanks


stepintowonder October 26, 2011 at 02:34

Hi Yvonne, thanks for your note. I am glad that we both share an appreciation for the written word :) . It is indeed precious in light of it's rarity.


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