Online Relationships: Cultivating the Skill of Appreciation

In the Building Online Relationships Department, I offer the following thoughts today:

Shane Larkin, Dexter StricklandIt’s a good thing I was alone watching the championship game this afternoon. I shriek so loudly, with such abandon in fervor for the success of my team that it’s just about socially unacceptable.

It was ever thus with me. They didn’t think I was cute or spry enough to select me as a cheerleader in high school, but I am nothing if not a vocal supporter, rooting for my team all the way.

Actually, I don’t understand why this isn’t the norm everywhere, not only in sports. Everyone so badly needs encouragement. Often I have guffawed at some performance, cried out in pleasure at some expression, applauded with wild abandon at some feat and wondered why my fellow audience members were so restrained. It seems that people commonly withhold encouragement, declining to participate until there is no risk, until the tipping point of popular opinion tells them what is safe to side with.

So I’m challenging any readers of this post to do an experiment. For one whole day, focus on being encouraging. No matter what or who you encounter, react positively, in encouraging terms. Keep your attention on offering encouragement to others.

Now, this exercise will exhaust you. But it will also give you a sense of the power behind adopting an attitude of appreciation. Seeing the world through just such spectacles is exactly what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Business finds vitality in innovation; and innovation bubbles up when you have ecstatic appreciation for the possibilities.

An encouraging response nurtures, challenges, beckons us to progress. Lukewarm or non-existent response makes us want to give up.

Take one day and concentrate on being positively responsive to everyone with whom you have contact. This does not just mean being nice. It means saying that you notice the effort the other has made, the well-meaning or ambition or conviction the other has transferred; saying that you recognize and applaud them and want to encourage their continued progress.

It may take especially keen listening to tease out an inclination or clue or direction in the other person that you can heartily encourage, but there is always something if you attend closely enough.

Notice that finding things you can sincerely appreciate is key. Don’t try to fake this. You’ll only benefit if you cultivate your ability to see the truly positive, rich, and promising aspects of other people’s being and actions.

For most of us, perceiving positive aspects of the people with whom we interact will simply be a matter of shifting focus. For others, who are experiencing more extreme trials, it may be a lot harder to discern healthy tendencies in the people around them. Yet at the same time, identifying the growth urges that do exist – however rare they may be – and sincerely encouraging them, can in these instances especially make a significant difference to well-being. If in the midst of general hopelessness a tiny new hope appears, that nascent phenomenon captures attention and obliterates despair, if only momentarily.

Admittedly, I’m mystified as to why we do not more generally applaud one another. Our culture encourages children, but at a certain age we stop applauding and start testing. The environment turns hostile; it becomes dog eat dog. Does there exist a decent justification for turning on one another like this?

Would you rather live more harmoniously, supporting others instead of warring with them? Try this little encouragement trick for a day or two. But be forewarned: you may end up wanting to make it your lifestyle.