Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Power of Appreciation and Gestures of Goodwill

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield became well known for his routine, "I don't get no respect." Perhaps, part of why so many people relate to his message is that we are often unappreciated and underacknowledged for all our good works and efforts, be it the simple actions of daily life or larger projects and undertakings. Too often, we are taken for granted, dismissed or passed over as those around us move on to what is "next."

In this context, one incredibly powerful tool we can all use to empower ourselves and others is appreciation. How do you feel when someone tells you that something you have done has made a difference or impacted them in a positive way? How do you feel when someone recognizes a thoughtful gesture you have made or even acknowledges how good it feels when you have noticed something that really mattered to them?

Appreciating and being appreciated both feel really good. And when we consciously voice appreciation of those around us, we help create a more positive and loving environment. Appreciation can be contagious. If we keep looking for opportunities to appreciate others, in time, they will likely mirror back their appreciation of us.

In addition to telling a loved one, a co-worker, or even the check-out clerk in the grocery store what we appreciate about them, we can consciously give others a "positive stroke," by offering a "gesture of good will."

Gestures of good will come in many forms, from noticing that a friend loves a special kind of cereal, so that when s/he comes to visit, you make sure it is in your cabinet, to choosing to disengage from a stuck position in a disagreement, and acknowledge you really do hear and understand the other's point of view. When we act in a way that shows another person that we understand them, hear them, value them, think about them, and care about them, we give the message that they matter. Being shown that you matter feels awfully good!

Often, it does not take a lot of work to offer a gesture of good will, mostly thoughtfulness and emotional attentiveness. The return on investment of a thoughtful gesture or emotionally attentive action is tremendous. And like appreciations, gestures of good will are mutually empowering for the giver and receiver.

Just as we have daily practices of eating breakfast, going to work, and maybe taking a walk or going to the gym, we can build appreciations and gestures of good will into our daily life. What might it be like if you tried to appreciate a loved one each day? How might you feel if once a week you offered a gesture of good will to someone you cared about or even a stranger? Perhaps this is the spirit of the "commit random acts of kindness" bumper sticker.

In the old days before transponders and the FastLane, it always felt like a special treat when the person in front of me paid for my toll on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Sometimes it even inspired me to do the same for the person behind me! Passing the good energy forward can send a wonderful ripple of healing and connection out into the world!