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The True Purpose of Appreciation

I’ve witnessed a fair amount of suffering in couples around the need for appreciation.Here’s a snapshot of a common conversation:

Jared:I just want some appreciation, but it’s not like I need compliments.I mean I do it because I want to.

Jonna:I give you appreciation all the time.I don’t see why I have to appreciate you for what you are suppose to be doing anyway.You should just do it.

Ugh, I feel heavy just writing this dialogue.Sadly I hear some version of this quite often from couples.In this example both Jared and Jonna are confused about the true purpose of appreciation.

Jared knows he longs for appreciation and at the same time resists his longing because he thinks it’s about building up his self-esteem or helping assure his image.He knows he doesn’t want that.He also wants to be seen for his natural willingness to do his part in the relationship and doesn’t want Jonna to think he is doing something to gain her approval or get some external reward.

Jonna is likely confused about the difference between appreciation and praise.She thinks that if she tells Jared how great he is at something she has expressed appreciation.Unfortunately this is the very thing that Jared doesn’t want.Jonna also wants Jared to do his part because it is in his heart to do so and is afraid that his request for appreciation is an indication that he is not acting from his authentic desire to contribute.

The true purpose of appreciation is to provide information about what meaningfully contributes to life.

When Jared asks for appreciation he is really saying, “It’s so important to me to contribute in a meaningful way.I want to know how what I do affects you.Am I effectively meeting needs for you and our family?”

Hearing this Jonna understands that expressing appreciation isn’t about telling Jared who he is or isn’t or trying to build him up.She gets that it’s about expressing her experience of his behavior.So, for example, the next time Jared does something to contribute, however mundane, Jonna can express her experience of that, “Seeing such a clean kitchen I feel relaxed and have a sense of peace.Thanks hun.”

Hearing this from Jonna in the moment Jared feels satisfaction knowing that he has contributed meaningfully and also gets clarity about which behaviors of his meet which needs in her.

As Jonna and Jared share appreciations daily around the special and the mundane, their natural desire to contribute is enhanced and their clarity about how to truly support each other and their family deepens.Over time they experience an incredible sense of ease as they move together in harmony.

Take a moment to reflect on appreciation in your own relationship.Ask yourself if you are caught in any of the confusions I listed above.Challenge yourself to express one appreciation to your partner every day for a week.Remember appreciation isn’t praise or a simple thank you.It’s an expression of how a specific action meets needs for you and gives rise to specific positive feelings.

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1 Response

  1. Jun 07, 2010

    This is so timely for me. I am building a quarter mile of horse fencing for my adult daughter's horses (in southern Arizona). It has turned into the project from hell and has taken over my life for the foreseeable future. I want to do it, but it is absolutely exhausting, and I find myself hungering for just an occasional bit of appreciation and recognition for the work and the sacrifice. Then I feel petty for those feelings. This article helps me to understand, so that I can tell my daughter how I feel before I get resentful.

    Thanks again for another of your wonderful columns!!!

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