Authentic Appreciation

By Scott Westerman

“The first law of business communication: Speak their language.” 

How many times have you said “Thank You” this holiday season? Do you think the other person got the message?

The highlight of our year was the arrival of our first grandson. At age six months, he’s learned exactly how to tell us what he wants. His needs are simple: food, a nap, a new diaper and attention. We know his routines well enough to read the signs and are able to give him what he needs. As a result, the majority of our time together is a two-way love affair that only grandparents and grandchildren fully understand. We’ve learned his language and the result is a wholly satisfying experience.

In his fascinating book on the fall and rise of the American automotive industry, Once Upon a Car, Bill Vlasic describes how the natural acrimony that the UAW felt for the Big 3 was a notch lower when it came to Ford. That was because Chairman Bill Ford, “spoke their language”.

Barry Robertson, founder of the international leadership development organization Stop at Nothing provides these insights on “Gratitude 101″ in the workplace.

“Poor leaders confuse appreciation, which is simply thanking people from the heart, with reward and recognition programs. The best leaders develop the ability to thank people in ways that demonstrate sincere appreciation.The most powerful motivator is knowing that you are genuinely appreciated; that your contribution matters. This feeling of caring cannot be bought with monetary rewards or systemic recognition for ‘chinning to a certain performance bar’.

“It’s important to thank people for specific things, but we want every employee, including the quiet solid performers who may not garner attention, to feel appreciated. It buoys their spirits to feel valued as a human being beyond what they contribute to the bottom line.”

Authentic appreciation is most effectively communicated when you understand the person being appreciated.

Marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, believes we each have a love language, our preferred way of expressing and interpreting love. As Isabel Briggs Meyers, a collaborator in the famous Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment puts it, “Whatever the circumstances of our life, understanding type can make your judgements clearer, your judgements sounder and your life closer to your heart’s desire.

What does all of this have to do with expressing appreciation?

Gratitude is most effective when it’s communicated in the recipient’s language, not yours. in other words, appreciation, isn’t about you.

Chapman’s five languages of love are:

Words of Affirmation
Quality Time
Receiving Gifts
Acts of Service
Physical Touch

Knowing someone’s favored way to receive can significantly amplify the value of your gratitude.

But it’s not always easy. We tend to communicate in our own language. And, as Chapman’s research indicates, “people are usually drawn to those who speak a different love language than their own.” So giving thanks requires thought. And you won’t necessarily get back what you give.

But that’s ok. Gratitude is about the giving and not the getting.

As you approach the end of another year, what are you thankful for? Make a list and keep it handy for your bad days.

And who are the people that have changed your life this year? How will you tell them? There is no better time than right now. When you do, speak their language!

Have a great week!


Scott Westerman has been a broadcaster, cable television executive and entrepreneur. In 2010 he joined the MSU Alumni Association as Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations & Executive Director. He is a 1978 graduate of Michigan State University.

This blog post was originally featured on http://www.scottwesterman.com and has been used by the author’s permission.

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