We all like to be acknowledged for something—whether it is what we do or how we look, or even for our personalities. But in our society, we are not conditioned or taught how to give acknowledgement properly, nor how to take it properly when it is given. Acknowledgement is not given as an “in order to” or to control someone else. It is given freely for the purpose of “creating” what is there. An example of this: Your daughter is extremely outgoing and friendly to those around her, even if it may cause her to get in some dangerous situations at times. The way most people acknowledge this would be, “Oh honey, I am so glad to see you be nice to others. But you must be careful around strangers…” That pretty much erases and negates any acknowledgement that you gave her.
Let’s try that again. But this time, we are truly acknowledging her for her kindness and generosity. “I really appreciate how kind you are to others, and how much you give of yourself. You make time for others even when you don’t have time, and you give everyone a smile. That is really amazing.”
See the difference? In the first example, there is a “but” that negates any acknowledgement you gave; but in the second example, you got rid of the “but” and just focused on the good. No explanations needed. You are creating what is there through your language.
You cannot “fix” someone’s behavior by giving them a backhanded compliment: i.e. telling them what is wrong and right with them in the same acknowledgement. All you do by doing that is create resentment and tension in your relationship with that person. They feel like they can never please you and that you don’t ever appreciate them for who they are—period. No matter how much you try to tell them otherwise later, it is too late. You have already dropped the ax. (Save the “fixing” for another conversation.)
Be generous in giving acknowledgements. Even if you think someone doesn’t deserve it, give it anyway. Find something that you appreciate about that person, and let them know it, without the customary things you want them to fix. But don’t do it to fix them—do it because they need to hear it. When you give acknowledgements freely, you are essentially creating in them a desire to do more of the same that you acknowledged them for, as well as more good things. Help that person become amazing just by simply acknowledging them without trying to fix them. You would be surprised to find out how well that actually works.
Then there is the matter of receiving acknowledgement. Most of us try to avoid this, if possible, even though we want to be acknowledged. We divert attention to something negative and deflect the attention and acknowledgement by trying to get the other person to focus on something else. We do this because we don’t think we deserve to be acknowledged. This is how that looks:
“You have an amazing gift of patience. I just love how you can explain over and over again each concept to your science students, without showing the least hint of exasperation.”
“Well, if you only knew how much I was seething inside sometimes, you wouldn’t say that. There are so many times I want to just tell them to study, rather than have to go over it time and time again!”
Well, that didn’t go so well, did it? What the receiver did was deflect the giver’s acknowledgement, and push aside any creative acts by the giver. How do you think the giver felt when the receiver said this? My bet is that the giver felt like the receiver rejected the gift of acknowledgement, and felt pretty crappy.
You see, when people try to show us any positive attention, especially in the form of acknowledgements, we push them away, because we don’t want to seem cocky or obnoxious, or that we don’t deserve it somehow. It’s ingrained in us to do just that since childhood. We are taught that we should “be humble”, and that humility is a good thing. But really, we are just displaying low self esteem.
So how would it look if we actually received acknowledgements? Instead of saying what the receiver said, what if they said this instead?
(That is all that needs to be said. Don’t deflect them or go on your own rant about how things need to be changed, or how something affects you. When someone is acknowledging you, a simple thank you is all that is required and desired. Save that for a future conversation when neither of you are acknowledging…)
How do you think the giver would feel then? My bet is that the person would feel like they were heard and appreciated.
Today’s lesson is: giving and receiving acknowledgement properly is key to creating a life you love, and creating a life others love as well. Acknowledge to create the other person as they want to be, and not to fix them. Accept acknowledgement freely and without deflecting it away from yourself.
(Create a life you love in 7 steps, which includes acknowledgement. Check out my book “7 Steps to Living a Life you Love”, on Amazon now.)