Appreciation is not about being nice

By Cindy Vallance

APPRECIATION is the fourth principle that we need to develop to have a thinking environment. Nancy Kline suggests practicing a ratio of 5:1 appreciation to criticism when it comes to our interactions with others if we want them to think for themselves. How many of us get anywhere near that ratio?

Appreciation is not just about saying thank you – and even thank you isn’t really appreciation if it isn’t sincere and specific.

However, we work in an environment of debate and criticism. This isn’t a bad thing – we need to constantly question what appear to be facts to progress our thinking about a host of subjects and ideas. However, we can also take this to extremes. In general, being critical in our society can often be seen as equivalent to demonstrating intellect and therefore being positive becomes its opposite – naïveté or simplistic generalisation. But you don’t have to agree with someone to appreciate them and you don’t even have to like them.

Appreciation is not about empty flattery. People are smart enough to see right through this. Appreciation should be “genuine, succinct and concrete.” It should also be timely so don’t wait too long to express it. And it should also be direct. Why does it sometimes seem that when we do hear something positive it comes to us second-hand? Like any kind of feedback, appreciation is best expressed directly to the person to whom it is meant for.

And when someone expresses appreciation, do accept it, don’t dismiss it. Just say thanks. This response demonstrates you aren’t undermining their opinion or judgment and it will help you both develop a healthy thinking environment.


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