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Appreciation: A Truly Humane Art

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The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out.
Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends & Influence People

There is something wonderfully enigmatic about sensing that another person notices your efforts, weak attempts though they may be, and kindly expresses such recognition with even a single word of thankfulness.

One paltry word, even? Yes. A mere word can make or break a person’s spirit, depend upon it.

On any given day, individuals, young and old, from every life background have an inner (frequently unidentified) hunger for a bit of expressed goodwill. Dale Carnegie knew this secret over fifty years ago, and spent his life reminding others that all people have this need, a “craving” the author called it, to realize a sense of validation for their accomplishments, their purpose, their very person.

Carnegie notes that, “…the rare individual who honestly satisfies this heart hunger will hold people in the palm of his or her hand.”

Cynics may grouse that there’s a fine line between appreciation and flattery. Well, it isn’t so. Flattery is simply verbal manipulation that benefits the speaker alone. The words may true or not, that’s not point.

Appreciation runs deeper. It marks another’s actions or attitudes and sees the benefit in the attempts…no matter how insignificant. Real appreciation also alters both the speaker and the recipient, for the good. It spawns renewed vision, encourages continued efforts, and lights a fire for ongoing perseverance toward excellence.

Perhaps the most significant difference between flattery and appreciation is that one offers life (in abundance) while the other signals an inner death knell to the listener. People instinctively know if they’re being schmoozed and it’s always an ugly thing.

The question then is how to offer praise genuinely when someone is glaringly lacking from every visible vantage point. Again, wise and resourceful Carnegie offers this quote as a starting point for zeroing in on others’ strengths, hidden though they might be.

Quoting from Emerson, Carnegie reports, “Every man I meet is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” Wise words and utterly true.

In short, as we practice the art of identifying people’s strengths and offer words of consistent appreciation, we will take part in their success, which will naturally spill over positively affecting countless others.

Today, begin focusing on the strong points of people and then commit to communicating daily sincere appreciation to all. These few powerful words, which cost us so little, will be treasured by the recipient long after we’ve forgotten them, and there’s nothing insincere about it.

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