The Greatest Gift You Can Give

Steven Gaffney 4 Keys to Making it Work

My grandfather lived in a nursing home during the last several years of his life, before passing away at 99 ¾ years and one day old. During one of my visits to see him, a nurse pulled me aside and told me what a "great man" my grandfather was. Appreciative, I asked her why she thought so. She responded, "He is the only person here who always says thank you."

Wow, just two words in the English language! It many not seem like a lot, but it means so much to so many people. To this nurse, it meant everything.

My grandfather always acknowledged people. He acknowledged small things. During my last visit with him, he thanked the nurse for helping him with his hearing aid. He acknowledged large things; such as referring to his daughter, my mother, as an angel for visiting him daily and making him feel loved and inspired to face the challenge of another day.

There is nothing more important than remembering to acknowledge and appreciate people. It is the greatest gift that you can give someone.We do not have to throw a party or organize an awards ceremony, although it never hurts. We just need to acknowledge and appreciate people.

Why is acknowledgement so important? It serves two purposes. First, it shows people that they do make a difference. I believe that the number one driving force of human beings is our desire to make a difference. We want to see that our lives count and we need to feel like we matter to someone.

Many of us work extra hours, often for no additional money or benefit. Why? Because we want to help out, we want to make a difference, we want to contribute. That is why many of us have a hard time saying "no." In fact, by conducting career development seminars, I have learned that one of the biggest fears that people seem to have in common is the fear of dying without making a difference. Many parents have shared with me how consumed they are with making sure they are really making a difference with their children. When you acknowledge someone you are basically saying, "I notice you, you are important, you are significant." Acknowledging someone is a direct bullseye on most people's number one goal to make a difference.

The second purpose of acknowledgement is that it makes us, the acknowledgers, feel better about ourselves. Benjamin Disraeli said, "The greatest good you can do for another is not to share your riches, but to reveal theirs." When we acknowledge someone we have to think positively, for at least that moment. The more we acknowledge, the more positive moments we have that, over time, make us feel better about ourselves and others around us. If you feel sad, make a concerted effort to acknowledge the people around you. You will start to feel better and your attitude will improve.

Some people ask me if it is possible to over-acknowledge people? Perhaps, but the issue is more likely to be the quality of the appreciation--whether our sincerity is in the acknowledgement--not whether there is too much of it. In fact, I have never heard of someone leaving an organization because he or she was acknowledged too much. I have never heard of anyone ending a marriage because there was too much love and appreciation. I have never heard of a child growing up dysfunctional because the child was acknowledged too much. Of course, we have all heard of people leaving organizations, ending marriages, and remaining upset about their childhoods because they were not appreciated enough. Maybe there is such a thing as too much acknowledgement, but most of us don't have to worry about it.

Yes, sometimes acknowledgements feel awkward. That's because we might not be used to giving it. For many of us, it means letting down our guard; showing that we care; or letting someone know what we think and feel. Showing appreciation is one of the greatest gifts we can give to others, not to mention ourselves.

Four Keys to Acknowledgement that makes an Impact: Remember the "ISOS" acronym:

I- Immediate. Even if it is over the phone or via e-mail, express it immediately. Often people want to do something really special. That is fine, but do something quickly-even if it is something small. You can always do something special for them later. If you don't do anything, and instead wait to do something later, you run the risk of someone questioning your sincerity. They may rationalize that if you really meant it you would have done it, immediately. Seize the moment and do it right away. It will have a greater impact.

S- Specific. Make sure you are specific about what you are acknowledging them for. Rather than saying, "Thanks for all your help," say, "Thanks for all your help. In particular, I appreciate how much time you put into it. I know that meant time away from your family" Being specific adds importance and validity to the acknowledgement.

O- Often. Few of us have ever suffered from too much acknowledgement, but many have suffered because there was not enough. Don't be stingy. Acknowledge often in different ways. Don't be predictable.

S- Sincere. Say it only if you mean it. If you acknowledge and appreciate others, it must be sincere. A fake acknowledgement is worse than none at all. People are smart and most of us are lousy actors--we are not fooling anyone. A sincere acknowledgement that comes from the heart is a powerful motivator.

Give the greatest gift you can give someone: Give the gift of acknowledgement. Tell someone what a difference he or she has made in your life. Then watch the difference you make in theirs, just by acknowledging them.

2006, Steven Gaffney Company, All Rights Reserved 703-241-7796

Category: Work-Life, Balance
Print page