The Art of Appreciation


The Art of Appreciation

That look of joy on a person’s face when you let them know what they have done is valuable. Perhaps it is one of surprise because they didn’t think anyone noticed. Maybe you aren't present to see that look, but you receive a text or email in response with happy emojis or words of acknowledgement. This is the result of appreciation.

Lawyers and their staff teams work tremendously hard in meeting clients’ and employers’ expectations. This is a tough job in challenging environments and being paid for our services is part of the deal. Being appreciated however, is next level. Appreciation is more than “thank you.” It is recognizing effort, worth, distinction. That which is appreciated doesn’t need to be monumental. The act of appreciation doesn’t have to be huge either.

Offering appreciation makes a huge difference. Receiving appreciation can be a boost of energy, a reassurance and sometimes a cathartic release. Those all-important serotonin levels can be positively affected by both offering and receiving appreciation. Appreciation can transform a working relationship or a volunteer experience and can be critical during career and life transitions.

I always encourage early career lawyers to keep expressions of appreciation from clients, mentors or supervisors. Re-reading that email or card on the not-so-good days reminds you that your work is valued. And be sure to forward expressions of appreciation of your staff to them (and deliver your own). That is a great way to build teamwork and your team’s confidence.

CBABC appreciates our hundreds of volunteers. This association can’t deliver on its promise to members without that partnership between volunteers and staff. At our June Provincial Council meeting, our advisors received gifts of appreciation and we recently delivered gifts and messages to our Section executives and Committee volunteers. Planning meetings for members, working on submissions to government, supporting Section executives, and advising our staff is valuable. We know it takes time. It takes extra effort on your part and a sacrifice of home and work time. Your work and insights help us improve what and how we support members of CBABC.

Appreciation can be shown to those who report to us and our peers. It also makes a difference to those a bit ahead of us. Thanking our mentors, champions and teachers, and sharing stories of seemingly inconsequential moments that had meaning, tells that colleague that their life is not just about the business of law, but about the relationships that make this career choice worthwhile. In this season of awards presentations, call and welcoming ceremonies, and retirement celebrations, I’ve watched the impact of these stories on the honorees. Being told you are valued can never be overdone.

Studies have found that due to negativity bias, we need to hear 5-7 positive comments to overcome one negative. Think about that. Are you getting enough appreciation, positive interactions or praise? Appreciation can go a long way to balancing out those negative comments. And there are benefits to those who offer appreciation too! The practice of gratitude, to purposefully identify something good, is related to appreciation, and similarly has positive health impacts.

How to deliver appreciation? Well, it is a bit of an art, but here are the basics. It starts with paying attention and identifying what someone has done that is valuable to you. Being specific about that increases the impact of your appreciation. Then you tell them with words, a lawyer’s stock and trade. To truly land the message, be sure to follow up with actions that show that your words were authentic (appreciation can take the form of actions too).

As we head into the busy fall term, look for opportunities to express appreciation. You’ll be glad you did.