Acknowledgement and Appreciation

Recently a dear friend in my life and I were talking about the difference between and the importance of both acknowledgement and appreciation in relationship with another; how the give and take of a relationship is less about measurement and perfectly balanced scales than it is about taking the time to show appreciation for acts of loving kindness through the simple act of acknowledgement.  As I mulled these thoughts around in my head, I  kept silently see-sawing between what it means to selflessly give without expectation and our very real and human need and desire to feel acknowledged and appreciated, an endeavor that in some ways I excel at, yet in other ways fall well short of the mark.

Just this week, for example, I have been struggling to tackle the mounds of personal papers in my home office, stacked up and put off to be dealt with another day.  In the purging of all of this clutter, stacks of written, yet unsent cards were unearthed…the best of intentions rendered meaningless – for the intended recipient never heard my words, never received an acknowledgement, and never felt my thanks.  Worse still are the notes my children took time to write for gifts received, but which I failed to send on their behalf.  Yes, guilty as charged.

Recently, this topic of acknowledgement and appreciation has surfaced in other facets of my life, as I’ve found myself observing patterns of behavior, not just in my personal relationships, but in professional circles, too.  This topic, after all, is not only about what we do in response to loving acts of kindness, but in how we interact with others in our day-to-day lives.

I have one professional friend and ally, for example, who regardless of schedule, always manages to find the time to acknowledge emails within the day, even if only in a few words, though you may have to wait patiently if you’re hoping for a long conversation by phone.  Still, without exception, this friend recognizes, values, and finds a way to balance the need for honoring connection with others, while setting and maintaining boundaries in his own personal and professional life.  It’s a delicate balance, to be sure, but one I both admire and respect.

On the other hand, there are those others, who, despite their intellectual understanding of the importance of connection, fail to remember that influencing change does not just happen in a classroom or office setting or within the confines of ivory towers, but in our every day encounters with others; that real leadership happens in real life, through the values we live every day. While it’s true that not everyone is interested in establishing connection or building relationship with others, it’s equally true that we are nevertheless measured and judged by our interactions with others, and oftentimes these seemingly random and meaningless interactions can have a far-reaching impact, for good or for ill, extending well beyond what the eye can readily see.

Take the simple act of returning emails and phone calls as an example.  Sure, we all get busy with the business of life and need to set healthy boundaries with others if we hope to be productive.  Sometimes we even flake out, forget, or lose an important message; but the patterns of time reveal our true values, and when we consistently fail to do the simple things, regardless of intent, the resulting message is the same:  You are not important to me.   Ouch!  And yes, the bold is for emphasis, but isn’t that how we often feel when we are ignored?

Alternatively, the simple act of acknowledgement and appreciation, even if only expressed in a few words, creates opportunity for connection, builds bridges of understanding, closes gaps, heals wounds, and opens doorways to paths that might otherwise remain closed to us.  When we take the time to acknowledge and give thanks to another, we not only say, “I SEE you,” but by way of the gift of our time and attention, we communicate to the other, “YOU are important to ME.”

I’m curious…

Who and what do you invest your time in?  Do you take time to acknowledge and appreciate others in your life?  Are you better at acknowledging some over others?  If so, is it because you tend to take those ‘others’ for granted?  When you give of your time, talents or money, are you able to do so selflessly, without the expectation of reciprocity or acknowledgement?  When you are not acknowledged, what message do you receive?  What is one thing you could do today to show appreciation for others in your life? 

8 thoughts on “Acknowledgement and Appreciation

  1. Great article! It really hit me, cause I used to be the one who wouldn’t take the time to answer emails, or at times take phone calls. I was in my own little world, trying to make the best out the chances I got. In the process, I forgot about those that had a hand in me getting where I was.

    Now, I try to at least say thank you to everyone who takes time to acknowledge anything I’ve done or said. It is very difficult at times to do this, especially if you let a couple of days slide in. But you gotta think “if they took time to read and acknowledge something I wrote, they deserve time off my schedule to let them know I appreciate their interest”.

    That’s the basics of customer service: appreciate the time and money people put into your product. If you do, everyone will be happy!


    1. Juan, Thank you for your heartfelt and honest feedback. I agree that there is real time involved in acknowledging others, which becomes challenging in a day and age when time feels like an increasingly scarce resource. Still, as we both pointed out, it’s important to honor and acknowledge those others who have supported us along the way. Moreover, I am learning more and more about the power our words and attitudes towards others have to shape and influence those around us, for both good and ill. In that context, how we interact with others becomes more important than ever, as we are not only ambassadors of ourselves, but of our values, our families, our employers and our community.


  2. Ahh, one of my favorite topics! Great job highlighting the challenges. My progress in this area has been that I no longer expect anything from a gift, not even a thank you, nor an acknowledgment. Yet, I’ve created another conundrum…what is the definition of a ‘gift?’ Does it include, for example, small acts of kindness, thoughtful efforts to make another’s experience more enjoyable…or is limited to what one might generally consider as a gift?


    1. Great questions, Chris! Beyond specific overtures (whether there’s an expectation of acknowledgement or not), as a society, we seem to have moved away from basic courtesy and good manners. While it’s not always possible to respond immediately or to every request, unacknowledged messages or emails, for example, are a particular pet peeve of mine. This is as true for my personal life as my professional encounters. When I see others consistently show up and be responsive, they shine like beacons, laying a foundation for building trust and respect.


  3. Great article Sharon. How would you explain the difference between expectations and acknowledgement. I am sure lot of us have been told that we have lots of expectations when basically we are seeking courteous acknowledgement from others in any group environment – professional or personal. In today’s social media, I find more callousness than before.


    1. Vibha – Thanks for taking time to comment on the post. I think key to balancing expectations with acknowledgement is keeping our own intentions in check and learning to depersonalize other’s behaviors. Respect goes a long way and I do agree that courteous acknowledgement is often lacking, though not always for the reasons we imagine (or may ever even know). Setting good boundaries, taking the high road, and giving others the benefit of the doubt is the best recipe for success!

      [As a side note, I apologize for the tardiness in acknowledging and responding to your comment, as I was offline for a few weeks, attending to a family medical concern.]


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