A few weeks ago, I attended a gathering at our elementary school with parents whose kids will be going to middle school with my daughter. I was not surprised to learn that the event, along with many others of its kind, was organized by our school’s Parent Coordinator.
Amidst the bustle of parent conversations about sixth graders riding the subway by themselves and gatherings to get the kids ready, I made sure to sneak away to chat with the Parent Coordinator who brought us all together. Feeling lucky to find her alone, I seized my moment.
"I’ve been wanting to thank you for all you’ve done for us through this entire middle school process. You held our hands to help us simplify when it all seemed overwhelming. You shared resources and parent stories so that we felt informed. And—most importantly, you created ways for us to connect with each other, so we can form communities as we step into this new and uncertain time. I felt supported each step of the way. You’re so good at what you do."
She was shocked by this outpouring of gratitude. In a year fraught with concerns and parent stress—there weren’t a lot of thank you’s flying around. And in this moment, I realized—yet again—how much we all need to hear these words. How they lift us up from our hard work, refuel us and help us redouble our efforts.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you step into this practice:
1. Maintain eye contact so this person can truly connect and take in your words.
2. Be specific! This helps the other person know what they can recreate next time. Note: it can be something small that made an impact.
3. Keep it positive. This is not a feedback session. It’s a time to offer thanks. You don’t want them to walk away focusing on that one negative thing you said—which is what we as humans do!
1. Take it in. Own it. Don’t deflect and take yourself down a notch. This doesn’t feel good for you or the person appreciating you. This takes time to practice, but it’s worth doing! A simple, "I appreciate you saying that." is more powerful than, "It was nothing." Or, "It’s my job."
2. Let it linger. When you’re laser focused on the things you need to do better, remember the thank you’s that have come your way. Let them remind you of the impact you’re having on others.
3. Note the feeling of being appreciated and pay it forward. Catch someone doing something well and jump in with some words of encouragement.
I’ve noticed that often I find it easier to dole out that appreciation when it’s someone outside of my inner circle who has done the bang-up job. For most of us, our teams, friends and families are hungry for that acknowledgement. It may be that we take our close-in people for granted or that our expectations are so high, perhaps too high. Whatever it is, let’s collectively be reminded that this practice is doubly effective when used with our people. They are better when they hear words of encouragement and we are better when we are generous enough to offer them.