Appreciation ‘a lost art’, amidst social media narcissism
The other day my friends (who may have the secret desire for me to go insane) suggested I see this video that went viral. It had that generated millions of likes on Instagram and Youtube. With just two words (used by egg vendors on Indian streets) for lyrics put into punchy music, it managed to echo in millions of minds around the country. The creative person who came up with it now has followers for life showing their appreciation. He has made other similar videos that must be making enough money to buy truckloads of eggs.
But ‘old school’ people like me who think relatable Bollywood music died a painful death by the end of the ’90s, cringe in their seats listening to such ‘works of art’. We live in a world that deems it’s easier to appreciate by its thumb more than its mouth (also because deep down we know lying through our teeth is sin). To be honest, I had a good laugh. The dopamine inducing music was enjoyable and I appreciate that there were only two words.
But I was beyond glad when I woke up the next day and couldn’t remember either of those.
Social media has become an inescapable entity in our lives. It is a source of income for many people and also a medium of instant information. It’s also a place where narcissism breeds freely. It’s a world we cannot escape from (FOMO anyone?). For people like me who struggle to figure out the head and tail of it, it’s a nightmare.
I blame social media for contaminating the art of true appreciation. The worst part is that those who click on the thumb or heart icon may not even like you or know you in real life. But for a vanishing moment in time give you their applause for whatever you choose to showcase (even dope-crazed selfies).
Unlike real appreciation, social media ‘likes’ are short-lived
Appreciation on social media is shorter than a few hours (maybe even less) before it goes on to the next trending subject. But I am here to talk about appreciating people in real life. But unlike social media, the gold sack is for the one who appreciates, not the one being appreciated.
Its ART so it may not be your cuppa Jo!
I call it ‘ART‘ because not many people can really do it well and it’s near about becoming extinct. We don’t even realize how big a role it plays in our lives and how much we benefit giving it as we do receiving it.
Two strong-willed toddlers grace my home. I swear that I get more co-operation out of them with high-pitched appreciation than slit-eyed threats. I have constantly found myself regretting my choice of harsh words when I could have just saved my breath and used appreciation instead. But as a parent, stupid decisions and regrets are a part of my life now but I evolve every day (hopefully).
While practicing the art of appreciation with my kids, it brushed off the dust from the long-forgotten hacks of leadership, mentoring, team building, and relationship blooming. In all those roles, we can benefit greatly by making appreciation a part of our off-screen lives.
Here are some ways, humans (bye bye bots) can use appreciation that benefits us if we religiously commit to reviving it:
1. Appreciation boosts a leader’s influence
All of us lead someone in some way. As a mom, I lead my family. Kamala Harris might get the TRUMP CARD (pun intended) to influence the most powerful nation in the world. Even if you lead one person, you are a leader. Leaders who genuinely appreciate their teams evoke loyalty, commitment, drive, and comradeship amongst its members.
Why do you think the TITANS (superhero movies) had team meetings?
The true strength of a leader is not in their own strengths but how effectively their team can manage the weaknesses. The best way to do this is by taking a genuine interest in each team member. Also, appreciating the flavor they bring into the team (some might even be a bit too salty for your liking but remember the greater good, Titan!).
During informal team meets, voicing out appreciation helps people feel significant, valued and their efforts substantiated. Trust me, it goes a long way and pays dividends during difficult times of your organization. Your people are its most important resource.
2. Appreciation makes it easier to give uncomfortable feedback
Appreciation paves way for critical feedback because it starts with acknowledging what went well before venturing into what went wrong. Often leaders get slack for being critical most of the time. They forget to sprinkle in positive feedback, thinking it’s obvious enough to forego.
No matter how well-meaning critical feedback is, it’s a hard pill to swallow. Nobody likes their shortcomings pointed out. Why not take the sting off just a bit by being appreciative at other times? (no, it’s not sugar coating)
3. Appreciation forces us to slow down
Appreciation forces us to slow down and really observe those around us rather than skimming the surface of relationships. The whole world is working on relationships so appreciation plays a major role in making sure you sustain healthy ones.
You don’t really need a psychology major to figure that one out (take this toddler-raising momma’s word for it).
When we slow down to look for real values and achievements to appreciate someone, we build empathy and connection. It’s an intentional investment into someone’s life which might even blow new life into an almost dead relationship.
4. Appreciation opens creative channels of communication
When we take efforts to truly appreciate someone, it can potentially open up new ways to communicate with them. Appreciative gestures can be made in person as well as publicly depending on what’s appropriate. Please don’t fall into the hands of the HR for gender violations!
Companies send festive gifts as a medium of appreciation. That shows that they not only value the collaboration but also ensures a long term commitment and visibility.
Spouses use gifts and words to build each other up (and no, Facebook posts without real-life connection doesn’t count!).
Even when you want to build a new relationship, putting effort into appreciation can be a great start at conversation. Just don’t be sneaky and selfish about it, rather, genuinely mean what you say.
Who should be appreciated?
Now that you know how all appreciation can benefit you, it’s also important to know who should be appreciated. All the above points mean you are trading precious time and attention. So it’s impertinent that you choose the subject of your praise wisely.
- Anyone who is your responsibility for leading like mentees, team members, kids you are trying hard to raise, house help, spouse (no, appreciating maid more than the spouse won’t help your case), second-level leaders, volunteers, etc.
- Those who look like they could use a good dose of motivation. See anyone with a low phase/face? That’s your cue to build them up.
Who should not be appreciated?
Yes, I am telling you that there are people who shouldn’t be appreciated because they don’t deserve the time of the day.
- Social media narcissists, who do just about anything for likes/attention and those who spread rumors, negativity, troll, demoralize people who are trying to make an effort
- Real-life narcissists, who are haughty and can’t see anyone except themselves. Their ego and their mirror do your work for them so why bother?
- Politicians, celebrities, news channels, and social media influencers (all these people who divide public, spread hate and lies, defame others, and will do anything to push agendas that are designed to hurt someone). If they don’t speak the language of love, appreciating them makes you a part of the hate culture too.
From a toddler to an adult, we all crave appreciation for our efforts. We may not actively pursue it but we carry a desire to be noticed for our efforts.
True appreciation helps to maximize our strengths and work on our weaknesses. Appreciating someone means that you are humble enough to see another person’s worth and secure enough to voice that out. This is one quality that builds the giver as well as the receiver.
We can thrive in our relationships and vocations when we learn to appreciate those around us. Before we look to receive, let’s first strive to become an artist of appreciation.
Have you felt the importance or lack of real life appreciation? Do share in the comments below.
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