Appreciation - The Fourth Component of the Thinking Environment
Updated: Feb 11, 2022
So far, we've looked at the first three components of a thinking environment and how they call to each other, how they need each other, how they support each other, the components of attention, equality and ease.
Now we're going to look at the fourth component, which is the component of appreciation.
I find it difficult to say whether any one of the components is my favorite, but if there's one that warms my heart the most, it would definitely be this one: the component of appreciation. One of the things that I love about it - just as I do with the component of ease - is what neuroscience has to say about the importance of this particular component. Unlike the conditions that create urgency and result in crisis management, that put people under so much pressure that they feel scared and afraid, the component of appreciation creates the complete opposite - which is the brain hormone, oxytocin.
Oxytocin is otherwise known as the love hormone. It's the hormone which - when it's present in our brain - allows us to feel safe. It encourages us to lean in to connect with one another, and it enables us to relax and be ourselves.
The thing that's so amazing about appreciation is it's completely free of charge. When we offer it to one another, we create oxytocin not just in the brain of the person receiving the appreciation, but in our own brain. So it creates this wonderful feedback loop between us.
What do we mean by appreciation? We define it as practicing a five to one ratio of appreciation to criticism. What we mean by that is noticing five times more often what's good, what's working, what's going well, what there is to be grateful for, what you value about another person - noticing where you're getting things right.
Wee need to be doing that five times more often, than focusing on what's wrong, what's missing,
what isn't working, as well as it should be, what you could have done better.
Of course, it's tricky, because for most of us in the jobs that we do, and in many other areas of our lives. We are being recognized for and - in terms of our jobs - being paid for improving what isn't going as well as it could be. So we're required to focus there. We're required to notice where things could be better.
There's nothing wrong with that. Continual improvement is something that organizations have been focusing on and investing large amounts of money in: being able to be better and better at doing.
We need to focus on where are things in life not going as well as they could be, and what can we do to make them better.
But the interesting thing about the components of appreciation is you, and everyone around you, is going to do a better job of thinking about how to improve what's not working as well as it could, if you're doing that in a climate where you are recognizing what is going well, and where you regularly not only notice what you value and appreciate about people, but you tell them. You say it.
So for me, when I think about the components of appreciation, I think about it like this: notice what's going well and say it.
The last thing that I want to say about the components of appreciation is that most often, if we do happen to appreciate someone, we generally do it in terms of telling them what they're good at doing. So we talk about what a person does well, and of course that's wonderful to tell people what they did well, but what's even better - I've noticed - is if you can tell them what you value about who they are as a human being.
We bring so many diverse and beautiful qualities to the table. Some of us are reflective, and considerate and thoughtful and calm. Some of us are outgoing and excited and energizing and inspiring. Some of us are good at creating structure and stability and taking care of the values of the organization. Some of us are great at being out front, and calling people along and getting people to join in. We all bring beautiful and different qualities to the table.
What I've noticed is, that if you can tell a person the qualities that they bring, and what you value about those, you leave that person feeling seen. You leave them feeling valued. You leave them with lots of oxytocin in their brains. And what happens then is they can do a brilliant job of thinking about the things that need improving.
If you missed the articles and videos on the other components of the Thinking Environment, here are the links:
Attention - the first component
Equality - the second component
Ease - the third component
Feelings - the fifth component