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The power of appreciation

This week I had the opportunity to meet and have an eye opening conversation with one of the readers of my articles. The topic of our conversation was the power that appreciation of others has in bringing positive change in society. Although one needs both (constructive) criticisms and appreciations to grow as a person, I believe that the average person is likely to be a better achiever when constantly appreciated than when constantly criticized. But unfortunately, it is easier for most of us to utter words of criticisms than those of appreciation. As my reader pointed out, even if we manage to say words of appreciation, these are usually shadowed by the word ‘but’. Statements like ‘They serve good food in this restaurant but the price is too expensive’, ‘Your report is well written but it is a bit long ’ or ‘You made a good presentation but you could have added more illustrative pictures on your PowerPoint slides’ are examples that can illustrate his point. Wouldn’t a full sentence of appreciation better motivate you to be a better version of yourself than one with the word ‘but’?

Growing up in Ethiopia, most of us learn things the hard way. Our mistakes are better noticed by our families than our achievements. We are constantly reminded of what is missing in us than what we have. Although we may manage to fulfill the least of what is expected from us, we are restricted from reaching our full potentials. I believe that constant criticism results in self-doubt, which in turn results in under-achievement. As the saying goes, ‘when you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt’. And one is unlikely to appreciate others without appreciating him or herself. In my opinion, criticizing and pointing out flaws in others is in a way a strategy that many of us use to fill the void within ourselves. In a way, the thought that others may also have flaws makes us feel better about ourselves.

In my opinion, each and every one of us is worthy of appreciation. And each and every situation or incident has a positive side to it. I believe that every situation and person can be compared to the glass of water that is half full and half empty. The empty portion of the glass represents the flaws in all of us while the full portion symbolizes our strengths. Not only do we benefit from the feeling of positivity that comes with openly recognizing the strengths in others, but in doing so, we also allow others to build on those strengths.

But to be honest, I believe it takes determination and a strong personality to openly appreciate the strengths in others. First of all, it takes a fight with own ego to accept and be convinced that others perform much better than we do. Second, it takes another round of ego fight to express our appreciation openly. In the Ethiopian culture, the dead is more celebrated than the living. But what good does it do to pour words and words of appreciation to a person who is no longer there to receive them? Those words would have been a great source of motivation and drive if directed at the living.

Have you ever noticed how the smallest appreciation that we receive makes a positive difference in our day? My reader called ‘detoxification’ the conscious effort of freeing yourself from feelings of negativity towards others and concentrating on the half-fullness of the half-empty and half full glass of water. Maybe ‘detoxification’ is what each of us need as we go by each day.