One of the hot topics (and Rubik’s cubes) of business is “appreciation”. Motivation and great work often stems from us feeling cared for and appreciated. As American philosopher William James wrote, “The deepest principle of human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Yet, the things that make us feel appreciated vary from person to person, even though the craving is shared universally. This variety can be what makes appreciation in the workplace more challenging—expressions of appreciation can sometimes miss the mark. For example, an employee may think, “I say an earnest ‘thank you’ and ‘good job’ to my co-worker every day, yet they don’t feel appreciated?” And another employee may think, “If my co-worker or company really appreciated me, they would do ‘x’ to show it.” When there are a variety of appreciation “languages”, how do we know what ways to show our co-workers appreciation?
An illuminating concept that helps pull back this “appreciation curtain” is that of “The 5 Love Languages”, developed by Gary Chapman. Chapman studied and discovered five simple and practical ways to communicate love—the five love languages. His initial studies focused primarily upon marriage and family relationships. However, the “love languages” have also been studied in the context of work relationships, and a follow up book co-authored by Chapman with Paul White, The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, helps organizations and employees identify effective means of appreciation and encouragement.
The five languages of appreciation as identified by Chapman and White are:
- Words of Affirmation—need words communicating a positive message; verbal affirmation of a positive characteristic
- Quality Time–need individual time and attention to feel like they are an important part of the team
- Acts of Service–energized when colleagues volunteer and help them
- Tangible Gifts—energized by receiving a thoughtful, right gift
- Physical Touch—this one is tougher in the workplace but it is occasionally someone’s primary appreciation language; a handshake or a high five can be encouraging
Each of us have a primary and sometimes secondary appreciation language that are the language(s) with which we feel most appreciated. If someone communicates to us with our primary appreciation language, we feel encouraged. Although the other appreciation languages may still have some positive effect, we may feel mystified and under-appreciated if we are not communicated to in our primary appreciation language. In addition, we tend to instinctively communicate to others via our primary appreciation language. There are five different languages, so our own primary language may not connect with someone else.
The exciting news is, if we identify and understand our own appreciation language, we can recognize ways we feel most appreciated. We are then better able to share and guide others in the communication of appreciation to support the relationship. We also are better prepared to detect, through our awareness of the different languages, when someone is trying to show us appreciation. Identifying that a person is trying to communicate appreciation, even if in a different language, can result in our feeling a little more encouraged.
Of course, this is just a brief overview of the concept. As with any language, there are a number of different “dialects”, so it takes some study, awareness, and trial and error to identify ways to speak someone’s language of appreciation. If you are interested in learning which appreciation language you lean toward, a complimentary screening is offered here: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/appreciation/ If you would like to dive in deeper and understand communicating appreciation in the workplace, the Appreciation at Work website shares several resources, including a store for your own copy of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace book.
Have you ever taken some time to think about what makes you feel appreciated in the workplace? What are some things a co-worker or company did in the past that helped you feel encouraged? What appreciation language do you think your supervisor speaks? As you work through this, I’d love to hear what you think is your primary appreciation language. My primary is Words of Affirmation. That said, I think I try to show appreciation to co-workers often through Acts of Service. The penning of Wednesday Wisdom is one such attempt. For some, Wednesday Wisdom hits the “encouragement” mark! For others, we’ll keep coming up with ideas! ????