Reality Check: Much Ado About Recognition

The onset of summer is a great time of year. There’s fresh grass, baby birds, the promise of warmth, and maybe even some leisure time!
For me, this time of year often coincides with finalizing some activities and interactions. Thus, it provides a great opportunity to acknowledge, recognize and thank the people I’ve been involved with, to share what I’ve observed, and to offer suggestions for moving forward.
When we deal with people over an extended period of time, it’s easy to assume that they know what we think of them (and vice versa). But this is not necessarily so. It’s sometimes astounding to realize what people believe about themselves and others.
How would we find out each other’s perceptions and beliefs? We could try a little conversation.
While telephone or face-to-face conversations are a good way to express this type of information, I prefer to write. I find it easy to miss or forget important points in conversation. A written piece gives me time to consider my word choices and really think through what I want to say.
I generally write emails, although I suspect that this activity might be even more effective if I wrote real letters or, even better, used pretty notecards.
When I set out to provide feedback and recognition, a few things I consider are: What accomplishments have I’ve observed? Do I have a perception that the person has changed over the time I’ve known them? If so, how? What impact or influence has the relationship had on me?
While I may not always choose to share the answers to all those questions, they are elements I consider.
In addition to my own observations, I sometimes also choose to take the opportunity to pass along positive information that I have heard from others. This isn’t gossip. These are observations such as, “Harry mentioned to me the other day that you have an excellent way of keeping people calm and focused.”
Again, what people don’t know sometimes astounds me. “Harry has an opinion about me? Really? I didn’t think he even knew my name!”
All of this can help make the wheels of social interaction run a little bit more smoothly. Knowing that we are noticed, recognized, and cared for can influence our whole outlook, can’t it?
One of the unexpected benefits of providing positive feedback is that it often begets positive feedback in return. When you make an honest effort to connect with and acknowledge someone, it seems to open the door for that person to do the same. It’s like saying, “It’s ok. We can talk.”
Mind you, feedback will not always be positive, so it’s best not to set yourself up with a positive feedback expectation! On the other hand, any honest, thoughtful feedback is a gift. Suggestions for how we might improve can provide an opportunity to modify our own performance, thus potentially leading to more positive feedback in the future.
So, much like the practice of writing three new things that you appreciate at the end of each day, a practice of providing recognition to others may provide even more benefit to you than to your recipient.
If you’ve never done this before, it might seem awkward to tell someone what you admire in them or to recognize their positive influence. In regular life, we often only express our true depths of feeling when someone has passed away. That’s a shame, isn’t it?
I’m grateful that I have these milestones where such feedback doesn’t come completely out of the blue, but as a natural part of a completion activity.
If you want to try an experiment, look for opportunities to give positive feedback. Ask, “Would you like some feedback?” Then provide it.

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