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  • Writer's pictureBecca Timmins

Are you appreciating enough?

This post is part of a series of blog posts where I consider each component of the Thinking Environment individually, in order to better understand the relationship between the Thinking Environment and psychological safety. In this post, I focus on the component of Appreciation.

Appreciation: Noticing what is good and saying it.

We all go around wondering, don’t we?

Trying to be good, kind, clever, insightful, helpful, loving. And wondering whether it’s working. How are we seen by others? Are we appreciated?

When others recognise us, the parts of us that make a difference to their lives, AND they say it out loud, we don’t have to wonder any more. And it feels good. Makes us feel more secure - safe in the knowledge that we are seen and valued.

Appreciation is powerful, and when working to build Trust and Safety, with an individual or in a team, it’s an important skill to develop.

Us human beings like to think of ourselves as logical creatures, able to clearly think our way through anything that life chucks our way. But it’s just not true. We rely on our feelings and instincts as information, just as much as we rely on what we read on a page or the words that we hear.

Our bodies deliver around 11 million bits of information to our brains, every second. As a comparison, we can only cognitively process at a rate of about 60 bits per second (according to Britannica Science online). Our brains are instinctively processing all the rest!

We evolved to rely on our instincts to survive. And a major element of that, is our emotional radar. But when that radar is so exquisitely attuned to danger, in today’s world, it means we can perceive it everywhere! Especially when we feel less than sure of ourselves.

And that’s where appreciation comes in.

Research carried out by the Gottman institute showed that to really build real connection, a real sense of safety, there needs to be a ratio of at least 5:1 Appreciation to Criticism. Some research suggests the ratio is even higher.

Appreciation of the positive then, needs to be a deliberate and positive choice. And when it is, it can be powerful. When teams appreciate and Trust each other, they become more generous when interpreting each other’s actions. And how much kinder an environment it is, when everyone applies the most positive interpretation to others’ actions, rather than the most negative!

We recently held a team session on feedback. One observation seemed to hold true for everyone.

If I trust that you value me, and you have my back, then I can more easily hear your constructive feedback and use it to grow.

So, the more we can appreciate each other, the more secure we feel as individuals.

And ultimately, the safer we feel, the better we think.

In all aspects of our lives, I think we should consider whether we are appreciating enough.

I know it sounds like it could turn into a bit of a hippy “love in”, but we need to get over the embarrassment of being overtly appreciative and try it! I’ve honestly watched it build trust, in my personal life and also within teams, when I and those around me have regularly and deliberately, noticed what is good and said it out loud. We remind each other how much we are all valued and appreciated.

And when we do have to deliver constructive feedback, the groundwork has been done. There is no question that it is coming from the right place. And there is no need for the recipient to feel threatened or not good enough. Because they already know that they are appreciated, there’s just always room to grow!

If you would like to have a conversation about how the Thinking Environment could be applied in your work or life, please get in touch for a chat or email me.

Click below for links to other blogs in this series






Photo by Xan Griffin on Unsplash

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