Dr. Paul on making a habit of expressing your appreciation

It can be as easy as putting a sticky note out to remind yourself be on the lookout for a job well done.

Do you ever feel unappreciated by your friends, co-workers, manager, family or your partner?

Some years ago, when receiving my yearly performance review, my team indicated that I rarely gave them positive feedback. When I read their comments, I was taken aback. Surely, I thought, I must occasionally let them know what a good job they’re doing.

But, after some honest reflection, I realized they were right. It’s not that I didn’t think highly of all the great work they did — I just didn’t tell them.

It’s important to let others know what you appreciate. Ironically, parents are always saying to their young children, “Good job!” when they brush their teeth, wash their hands or put away their toys. But how often do you say the same to your husband or wife? When was the last time you let a co-worker know what a great job they’re doing? When did you last tell a friend how much you appreciate them?

We tend to take each other’s well-done deeds for granted. Or when others do what’s expected, we don’t take notice, even if they do an excellent job.

Much of this is habit. When I came to work in the morning, I made a bee line to my office to get stuff done. I might have passed three or four co-workers who were busy at work, without saying anything, other than a quick hello. In between meetings and patients, I was all business.

I decided to turn this around. I put a sticky note reminder on my computer to be on the lookout for a job well done. When I saw someone do something well, I stopped what I was doing and let them know. I made this a priority in my day. After several months, this became a new habit. When I had my review a year later, my team commented on how often I let them know they were doing a good job.

So, how can you make this a new habit?

Remind yourself. Cultivate awareness of what’s going on around you. Sometimes we are so much in our own head or crazy busy that we don’t notice what others are doing. Put a reminder in your smartphone that pops up every day — be on the lookout for a good job! And then let the other person know. Moms and dads do this instinctively with their kids, but it’s not hard to extend this awareness to everyone else.

When you see something, say something. Even if it’s something they’re expected to do. Be sincere, don’t manufacture appreciation — simply acknowledge the small but important acts of everyday life. We all depend on each other, in more ways than we see.

Find creative ways of expressing gratitude. Notes, small gifts or cards make the point even more visible. Getting a snail mail card from a co-worker, friend, family or boss makes the point even louder. It took time and effort to choose the card, write the message and drop it in the mail.

Express your feelings. During your everyday life, pause and reflect on the feelings you have for your loved ones. Let them know how much you love, admire and appreciate them, independently from what they do. Don’t keep those emotions to yourself.

Let others know how much you appreciate them!

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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