LA 081: What To Do When You Are Not Truly Appreciated (And Get Your Own Back!)
I'm going to take a wild guess here that your work and your life has become more demanding.
Furthermore, I can be pretty certain that you feel under-valued.
I'll even dare to suggest that your pay is not the main issue in feeling under-valued, rather it's because it seems that no-one truly appreciates the value you deliver.
Something deep inside our pysche screams out to be appreciated. When we're not appreciated, then our satisfaction with life, with our job, with ourselves, is diminished.
You might have quit a job to take another with more salary in the belief that you would feel better. And for a while, that might have worked well enough. But after the honeymoon was over and the realities of everyday started to take their toll, even the extra money began to seem insufficient.
The offer of a higher salary felt good because it aroused your anticipation of pleasure (increased dopamine in your brain making the offer attractive). But dopamine is short-lived in making us feel good - so we seek another dose, then another and another and then some more (not necessarily a good thing!). Sadly, the extra cash doesn't (ever) deliver the anticipated long-term happiness. What we're really after is some oxytocin and a dose of serotonin - we want to feel loved (or at least a sense of belonging to a trusted tribe) from the oxytocin and a sense of delighted satisfaction with the serotonin.
And what better way to feel valued than someone else to appreciate you for your contribution?
You feel more loved (appreciated) thanks to the oxytocin, and you'll feel more satisfied thanks to the serotonin produced when you are appreciated by someone else.
So how do you get your boss, colleague, staff, partner, kids, parents, customer to appreciate you for well, anything at all?
You could be giving the very best possible service, providing the very best of you and yet still it seems to go unnoticed.
You could yell and scream and beg them to appreciate you. Throw a hissy fit and stomp off telling them that they don't deserve you. You could just suck it up and think that life is like that and people are unappreciative.
You could try and stop being so wonderful and find out of they even notice.
Or you could try something radical that actually works.
What if you could feel truly appreciated and deeply satisfied every single day? What if you could experience a more joyful, appreciative and considerate workplace and it only costs you seven minutes of a day? And what if in doing so you really got your revenge on all those thankless, ungrateful people who really should have appreciated you a long time ago?
In an earlier podcast I shared about the seven most important minutes of your day. Well, here's another hack for your Joyous delight and satisfaction that could be an additional 7 minutes, or instead. It's up to you just how much joy you want in your life.
Well you can.
So, you've tried one or more of the tactics everyone uses at some point in their life to get the appreciation you so richly deserve to no avail.
Or was it?
It is possible that they did try to show you their appreciation. They just used the wrong language. And by language, I mean your language of appreciation.
Dr Gary Chapman and Paul E. White wrote a wonderful book called the "5 Love Languages" that has impacted millions worldwide with their love and marriages. And they've written a version for work (because it seems that "love" is a bit too squishy and personal for the workplace) called the "5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace" on how to effectively communicate appreciation at work using the 5 languages that matter to people.
Essentially, each of us feels appreciated in different ways. That is, we have different "languages of appreciation". Typically, we will use the language of appreciation that matters to ourself. If you have a different language of appreciation, my appreciation of you goes unnoticed.
It's as if I am speaking perfect French and you only understand Chinese. Most, if not all that I speak will just be non-sense to you. Similarly, you speaking Chinese will make no sense to me.
The five languages of appreciation are:
- Words of Affirmation - using words to communicate a positive message e.g. praise for accomplishments, speaking or writing to affirm someone's character. (Writing a note of appreciation (by hand!) is powerful. Heck, sending a real, physical birthday card would be fantastic these days.)
- Quality Time - giving someone undivided time and attention e.g. having a quality conversation with someone, shared experiences (retreats) or small group dialogues.
- Acts of Service - pitching in to help and get things done (though always ask first in case your service is unwanted!) e.g. helping someone carry resources into a meeting room, arranging food for the team when they are working late on a project.
- Tangible Gifts - offering thoughtful, non-monetary gifts e.g. tickets to a concert, a special treat from another country you just visited (not from the airport store though!)
- Physical Touch - using encouraging touch in appropriate ways - perhaps less valued in the workplace and certainly very sensitive form of appreciation but can still be relevant e.g. shaking hands, high fives.
Take a moment to reflect and identify your primary and secondary languages of appreciation. Like most people, you'll "speak"all five languages, but two will likely resonate the most with you. If you're stuck, ask your life partner or best friend.
Also, identify the one that is least important to you. this one will be pretty meaningless to you when given. My own least important language is physical touch - just doesn't do it for me in the work environment, I'd much rather someone wrote me a note or pass over a bottle of nice whisky they grabbed at the duty-free (and please do take these at hints!) When someone writes me an email to tell me they liked something I wrote or that they enjoyed the workshop - I am on cloud 9. Pass me a bottle of decent Chianti and I feel really appreciated.
How about you? What makes you feel best appreciated?
You can also take an assessment to find out at the appreciationatwork.com website. I'm not affiliated by the way, just sharing - it's a small act of service :-)
Beware your bias!
Because I like words of affirmation and tangible gifts I might assume that this is true for everyone. And because I am not a great fan of physical touch to show appreciation, again, I might assume that this is true for you. I could be wrong.
We often find in the workplace, that someone who feels greatly under-appreciated by their boss has primary and secondary languages not shared with the boss. For example, one client I worked with recently wants to "hear" their boss appreciate them in public. Their boss is a quality time and gifts person, and shows her appreciation through spending time with people and giving them little trinkets from her travels. Works very well for some, but not this particular client - he doesn't even notice and was convinced that his boss never ever showed him any appreciation.
How to get people to appreciate you
You may well be thinking by now that "this is all well and good, but how does me knowing this get other people to appreciate me?"
When I was first starting out in my career do my job. It seems that I was mistaken about that. So, all I had to do was something beyond my job. It seems I was also wrong about that. Eventually I came to the conclusion that, in order to be appreciated, I just had to go out of my way to be especially awesome and incredibly helpful to my boss and then he would appreciate me. Erm... also wrong. Unless you have been especially blessed with a particularly unusual creature as your boss, that you have discovered the same to be true.
And it is also not a case that they are really appreciating you but with a different language, then you knowing this does not, of itself, get you appreciated. But we can, as I mentioned earlier, do something truly radical that will simulate appreciation and you will feel fantastically awesome.
And that's what we're going to learn next.
Remember I shared with you about oxytocin making you feel loved, trusted and appreciated? Remember that serotonin helps you feel a sense of delighted satisfaction. And that feeling of euphoric happiness is down to a dose of dopamine. Well, those three chemicals are triggered when we are appreciated (in our preferred language.)
What neuroscience also tells us is that these three chemicals are similarly triggered when we appreciate others. That is, giving appreciation to others makes you feel loved, trusted and appreciated. Giving others appreciation makes you feel a sense of delighted satisfaction. And appreciating others deliberately as a regular behavioural goal gives us a feeling of euphoric happiness.
You can't make others appreciate you but you sure can appreciate others and you get the benefit. Of course, they get the benefit of being appreciated too so this is actually even more powerful than simply being appreciated by someone else.
Yes. You give them appreciation and you get the benefit too. Mind blowing huh?
Don't believe me? Is it worth just 7 minutes of your day, each day for just one week?
If this is true, John, then surely everyone would be doing this! I appreciate others and they get the benefit and I get the benefit too!
Yes, you get to give others appreciation to selfishly make yourself feel great joy and satisfaction.
The trouble is that most people seem to be wired to remain miserable, dissatisfied and are waiting cynically expectant that someone, anyone, will one day notice them and appreciate them. And since nobody does that, they're determined not to do so for anyone else and make the first move because, lets face it, they don't deserve it.
Which I say is a terrific starting point because you ain't doing it for them. You're doing it for you. That they happen to benefit merely makes the world a tad better place. Wow, imagine if everyone caught this selfish appreciation bug and everyone was appreciative of everyone else. What a sickly happy world of joyous people it would be.
Let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you would like to take the challenge and prove to yourself that giving just ONE person appreciation for something real in their preferred language each day for just ONE week will lift your own feelings of satisfaction, trust, appreciation and happiness then give me just 7 minutes of each day for this next week and I guarantee joyous results for you.
Here's what you'll be doing:
- Make a list of seven people randomly chosen from your work, after-work and home environments.
- Identify for each person, their preferred languages.
- Observe or recall ONE specific real thing that you can genuinely appreciate about them. Add notes to your list.
- Share your appreciation with them in their preferred language. Add this to your list.
- Tick off their name from your list.
Hey I've even created a simple list template that you can use here: Random Acts of Appreciation Template.pdf
Start by making a list. Choose ONE person at random from your work or non-work or home life - someone who you see or work with on a regular basis. And write their name on your list.
Now, identify for that person, their preferred language. You can do so by observing them informally in three areas:
- Three quarters of people express appreciation in the way that they themselves would like to be appreciated. By observing your target individual's behaviour (e.g. do they praise others, or the meal they enjoyed. Do they buy gifts, put a hand on someone's shoulder as affirmation, or offer to help), you can guess their likely primary appreciation language.
- Requests of others
- Observe how they make requests to others (e..g do they invite others to their place for dinner, request help with projects, take time to ensure that they understand you) as these give clues about what matters to them.
- We tend to complain about what hurts us most (e.g. "my boss has no time to discuss anything", "no one notices what I do", "no one tells me anything good")
Write your guess for their most likely language on your list beside their name.
Next, observe or recall just ONE SPECIFIC behaviour, activity, task, thing that they have done that you GENUINELY can appreciate.
It does not have to be mega-fantastic. It can be incredibly mundane, but it is something that you can genuinely appreciate. It could be the way they closed a deal, or how they just greeted a co-worker, or the structure of a report, or that they made good eye contact with everyone when making that last presentation.
Add a note of this specific thing to your list now.
It is now time to turn the world upside down and inside out. Not get appreciation, but GIVE it.
Choose a suitable moment today and share your appreciation for that thing they did in their preferred language. Write an affirming note on a post it and stick it on their computer screen, use words of affirmation or offer to (and follow through) help them with something, arrange time to sit down and chat (and by that I mean ask and listen), get and give them something tangible that they would like and give it to them or maybe give them a high five - all while telling them why you appreciate them.
Tick their name off your list.
It's completely selfish because giving appreciation randomly to others will make you feel better - you'll generate dopamine (target), serotonin (pride) oxytocin (giving love).
Identify them, observe them and offer genuine, specific appreciation for ONE thing in their language.
ONE person each day for ONE week, for ONE thing.
Should I do this to my boss? Sure, why not - I'll bet they could use a lift too.
Partner? For certain.
In ONE week, tell me (an email would be terrific) how awesome you feel.
If you've never done this before, those individuals may well begin regarding you with suspicion about your intention, state of mind and may even ask if you have a life-threatening condition. Don't fret about that, once you've experienced the personal benefits to your own joy, health and wellbeing, you'll be keeping this going and maybe you'll share your secret with others and they too can selfishly be more joyous and satisfied whilst appreciating others and making them feel appreciated and satisfied. Good grief, imagine a world where everyone was appreciative of others - how weird would that be?