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How to Speak Appreciation

Tis the season of feeling warm, fuzzy and appreciative of all the things. I always find this a good time of year to reflect on what I’m grateful for, but being the action-oriented person I am, this year, I took it a step further. Let me explain...

We just wrapped our leadership conference at work. As an annual presenter, I thought about my topic and what I felt would have a big impact on an already amazing, competent and confident group of leaders and colleagues. I decided to present on appreciation in the workplace and how as leaders we could do a better job making our people feel valued at work.

I researched some stats and was blown away by the results. Did you know that 70% of people in the US say they receive no praise or recognition in the workplace? Crazy, right?! Also, 89% of managers believe employees leave for more money-fair guess I’d say. In actuality, only 12% of employees leave for more money-TWELVE PERCENT. 88% leave for other reasons, including not feeling valued.


In my presentation, I talked about Gary Chapman and Paul White’s book: The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace and asked everyone to take the appreciation language quiz. The results were pretty compelling. A big thing we all realized was: most of us are not speaking the same language when we’re communicating appreciation. So, all that effort we’re making to let someone know how much we appreciate them isn’t even being absorbed by that person. Basically, I am speaking Appreciation English and you only understand Appreciation Arabic, so you’re not comprehending a damn appreciative word I say or appreciative action I do. Sounds like an epic fail to me.

I decided to take it a step further. I thought about my family—the thing I appreciate most in the whole world, as you probably do too. Am I speaking their appreciation languages? Or am I doing what most people do? Speaking to them in the language I appreciate, the one that comes most naturally to me and the one that I want people to speak to me in, which may be getting me nowhere.

In case you’re not familiar, the 5 languages of appreciation are: (and btw - these are also often called Love Languages, and I HIGHLY recommend you and your significant other take that quiz to see where you land.)

  1. Words of Affirmation

  2. Quality Time

  3. Acts of Service

  4. Tangible Gifts

  5. Physical Touch

After some intense reflection, I realized I’d been slacking in some of my appreciative efforts. It’s not that I haven’t been trying to show my fam I appreciate them, it’s that I haven’t been showing them in the most efficient and effective way. And you know me, I’m all about that productivity. So, I changed some things.

Instead of telling my kid how proud of his efforts I was, I started swapping some of those “words of affirmation” with “quality time”, which I know in the past, he has responded to so well. Instead of telling my hubs how much I love him, I started giving him more hugs, swapping those words with touch.