A former boss of mine used to speak frequently of “graciousness.” Graciousness seems to imply appreciation, valuing others, Southern hospitality, kindness and gentleness. Clearly, it was a virtue that he valued and he wanted it to be demonstrated by those around him.
He was irate at the lack of graciousness shown by a colleague who was complaining strongly in a meeting about an institutional change that was causing problems for her and for her clients. Although I can understand that it might not be pleasant to hear such complaints, not hearing them makes it difficult solve problems.
Further, his graciousness seemed to lack integrity in that those around him never knew where they stood with him, or if he was satisfied or dissatisfied with their work. Nothing was straightforward or out there in the open.
And that leads me to ask: how will we be transparent with those around us—not just about our own thoughts but about their behavior? How will we let people know what we think about their performance, our relationships with them, what we appreciate about them or what we don’t?
And that leads further to the questions above, about the degree to which we share feedback with others, and about how much of it is appreciation and how much of it is criticism.
I, personally, have to be careful about this balance. Perhaps you do too. I think deeply about things—about myself, about others, about what is working and what isn’t. And I pursue excellence—and that requires discovering what isn’t working, and then, problem solving to discover solutions. But if I don’t balance this pursuit of excellence with appreciation and showing how much I value the people around me, they may feel unappreciated, devalued, overly criticized, or judged unfairly. In some cases, they may even feel frightened or demoralized by my “standards,” as though nothing they will ever do is good enough. Certainly, that is not my intention, and I do not consider demoralizing others to be a good thing!
In contrast, think about someone you know who is an appreciator —of life, of people, of others’ gifts, of good weather — you name it, they are grateful. These folks seem to exude good will. Sometimes, they are choosing to focus on the good. Sometimes they are thankful about current circumstances because of previous tragic experiences that demonstrated to them how bad things can be. Sometimes they are merely “Pollyanna-ish” in a way that has more to do with pleasing and being liked or refusing to see the bad, than with true internal feelings.
Whatever the source of their gratitude, most of us are drawn to people like this, particularly if their appreciation comes from a place of integrity. Most of us want to “do” for or be around these people, whether they share our personal or our work or our community lives.Eventually, however, if they only show appreciation, we may find ourselves mistrustful, wondering if we are seeing the real person, and feeling “less than” in their presence — because, after all, whom among us finds it easy to be positive all the time!?!But the big point is, most of us can afford to build more appreciation into our lives. Too much criticism is a problem for many of us and, as a result, for the people around us. So, how can we develop more of an “attitude of gratitude?” I have found, lately, in my efforts to behave with character and to choose people with character to work with, that I am more appreciative.I believe that it is only by aspiring toward the best in our lives and encouraging others to do the same that we will transform our families, transform our workplaces, and transform our communities. A great deal of research evidence supports this belief, in particular debunking the idea that a focus on resolving problems is the only way to make forward progress.I have also decided that I want to do business with people of character, and I want to encourage character in the people in my personal life. That requires me to tune in to good character when I see it. I find this shift in attention makes me aware of far more to appreciate in the people around me.
It might be my web designer who does a stellar job and responds helpfully to my needs.
It might be my graphic designer who designs a beautiful piece or gets promised work done when she says she will.
It might be my marketing person who indicates openly what she is working on, what her plans are, when she will get things done, and what her realistic projections are—all of which inspires trust. Or when she cares enough to call me up when I am feeling down.
It might be the people at my publisher, who are accurate in their cost projections, tell me honestly what they believe needs fixing, are straightforward about all aspects of the job, and work with me to find the most cost effective means for accomplishing my goals.
I need to notice these things. And I need to let others know that I notice their character and competence, and that I appreciate them.
How much appreciation do you have in your life—on the giving and on the receiving ends? If you think change is needed, what changes would you like to see? What do you think would happen if you started the chain of appreciation — just started paying attention to all the little positives that you saw in other people? What do you think would happen if you offered one less criticism to each person in your life? Jot a few notes below about people you appreciate and why. Decide when and how you will tell them.
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