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Sunday
Jan162011

Know Why You Say It

One of the techniques from Behind Closed Doors I’ve started using is Appreciations. It’s important to give people feedback on how they’ve helped us or made our lives or jobs easier. Sadly, “thank you” has largely been stripped of it’s weight by misuse. What Esther and Johanna suggest instead is to let people you know that you appreciate what they’ve done. Their format is simple:

I appreciate that ___. It helped ___.

Some examples:

I appreciate that you ran the meeting for me while I was gone. It helped the team avoid distractions.

I appreciate that you took the time to prepare for the backlog grooming meeting. It helped all of us focus on the important issues more quickly.

I appreciate that you brought up the difficulties you’re having with the current team structure. It helped me see how we can restructure things to work together more effectively.

As I’ve discovered in using it, there’s real power here. It names a specific behavior, which calls out exactly what actions you’re trying to reinforce. It also points to a specific impact, which connects the behavior to its consequences.1 Both of these are useful from a behavioral perspective, in that they establish a tight feedback loop and positively reinforce behavior. This format clarifies to the listener what you’re providing feedback on and why.

There’s more to it, though. As I’ve started to give people appreciations, I’ve found that it forces me to understand the behavior and the impact as well. I often have a sense that I should thank someone. By using this technique, I have to get clearer in my own mind exactly what I’m thanking them for and what they did to help. That process makes me see the situation and the systems at work more explicitly than I had before, and that seeing helps me act with intention.

Appreciations, then, are gifts that help both the receiver and the giver.




1 One of the problems with the generic “thank you” is that it often masks the connection between cause and effect by leaving out any description of the effect.

Reader Comments (1)

Well said. This is a parenting trick too -- taking more words to say something we're used to compressing. It works for please as well. "It would be helpful if you could take out the trash, I'm very tired" is way more effective than "please take out the trash."

January 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulian Murdoch

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