“The beauty of appreciation is spoiled when people begin to notice the lurking intent to get something out of them.” (Rosenberg, M, Nonviolent Communication, A Language Of Life, 2003, p. 185, 186)
There is a difference between appreciation and praise and compliments. Appreciation is an expression of how our lives are enriched by the actions of others, the needs that are met and the feelings that arose from those needs being met. Praise and compliments can be a shortcut for appreciation. “That was a yummy dish” can have the same intention as appreciation, a summary with fewer words.
And often praise is used to get someone to do something. Sit still in the classroom. Do chores. Work harder. “You’re such a good girl.” “Thanks for being a team player.” These compliments often hide a request to continue certain behavior to support needs that are unspoken, and sometimes even unclear to the speaker. The speaker doesn’t reveal the needs met by the action they praise, nor the happy feelings that arose from these needs being met. There is just an evaluation of who you are and what you did. As if they are God and know who is good and who is bad, what is right and what is wrong.
I find the sticker sheet that parents use to encourage their child to do their chores a clear example of the lurking intent behind praise and compliments. ‘If you sweep the floor, you are a good boy and you’ll get a sticker.’ And after 10 stickers for 10 chores, you get to buy your favorite toy, or watch your favorite movie, or get to eat ice cream.
These praising and complimenting strategies certainly get your child to do what you want. They work. So much so that we continue to use them in the workplace with salary raises, job evaluations, choosing the best employee of the month.
But they only work to a certain extent. They get people to behave a certain way, but we don’t get them to do so out of the joy of their heart. They contribute to get the results they want for themselves. We are not sharing how their action meets our needs, so they can’t understand how they make a difference in our lives. Praise and compliments reinforce instrumental contribution. They don’t inspire us to contribute out of the intrinsic joy of contributing. Once the reward loses it’s appeal, we lose our excitement to modify our behavior.
I believe that appreciation is the way to go. Simply sharing the actions that have contributed to our well-being, the particular needs that have been fulfilled, and the pleasurable feelings engendered by the fulfillment of those needs. Appreciation expresses how others contributed to our needs. It is a celebration, not a hidden request.
You want help to appreciate NVC-style? Contact me for a free, discovery session, 512-589-0482.