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Learning the Languages of Appreciation

Let’s say you have a teammate who has gone above and beyond to make a project successful. When you get together for the company meeting you want to be sure and give them credit for their great work, so you set time aside at the beginning of the meeting to say a few words.

You ask the person to stand up so everyone can see them and as you are sharing your appreciation with the team you watch the individual turn as red as a stop sign as you are speaking. They begin fiddling with their fingers and almost shaking nervously.

I watched this happen in a conference room a few years back and it was honestly heart-wrenching. I had recently started my business and was working on a contract basis with a great company in my hometown. I got to work with their learning and development team developing new content and educational experiences for the company.

I had worked with this individual for a few months and knew very well that they were easily embarrassed, especially in front of any type of crowd. They didn’t like to be called out in any way, even if it was positive. But there we were, the leader of the company doing what he thought was a nice thing to do, only to have it be one of the most uncomfortable moments I have experienced with this client. Everyone started shifting in their chairs when they realized that the person on the receiving end of the praise just wanted to run out of the room and hide.

A few months after this experience someone recommended a book that helped me understand exactly what had happened that day. “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace”, by Gary Chapman and Paul White. It is based off the #1 bestselling book “The 5 Love Languages”, that Gary Chapman wrote many years earlier.

The premise of the book is that the same way we have preferences as to how we want to be shown love, we have preferences in how we want to be appreciated. As soon as I started reading the book it all clicked. That day in the conference room the leader was showing appreciation through very public words of affirmation, and that was NOT one of the individual’s preferred languages of appreciation.

I decided to do a little experiment of my own to see if I could figure out what this person’s preferred language of appreciation was. When they had an emergency come up, I rearranged my entire schedule to fill in for them and got a quick thanks. Maybe it wasn’t acts of service.

I knew from my work with them that it wasn’t physical touch, I had watched them cringe every time someone got too close, or heaven forbid gave them even a side hug.

I had heard them mention once in passing that they loved champaign. So, I decided to make a basket with all kinds of fun champaign and left it on their desk with a note that simply said, ‘I really appreciate having the opportunity to work with you, celebrate being awesome this weekend!’

Holy cow, you would have thought I gave them a million dollars! Apparently, that was the nicest thing anyone in a workplace had ever done for them. They talked about it for weeks and shared details about how much they enjoyed each bottle that was in the basket. Jackpot! Tangible Gifts was something that resonated and made them feel truly appreciated.

Since I hadn’t tried the language of quality time yet, I decided to ask this person to join me for lunch one day. It was just the two of us at a nice restaurant close to their office, so we had plenty of time. We knew each other pretty well professionally but I didn’t know much about them outside of work, so I decided to ask. I asked lots of questions and just listened. I answered their questions and they just listened. It was quite obvious that both of us had quality time as one of our languages of appreciation!

The reason I share this story is that I want everyone to have the opportunity to show appreciation that will resonate with the person or people they are giving it to. It is so much fun when the appreciation is fully received!

If you haven’t already read the book, order it today! Maybe you could even share it with your team members, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to appreciating each other!


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