Monday, November 30, 2015

The Art of Appreciation

I had a conversation recently in which a person told me s/he did not feel appreciated by family members, or anybody else, for that matter.

So I began thinking about what it means to be appreciated. Or to feel appreciated.

First, I must say I think that the two can be confused. Someone can be appreciative and the other person not realize that whatever the first person is offering is appreciation. And the second person may not realize that the first person has done something which should be appreciated or remarked upon.

I also have to wonder if people who feel unappreciated appreciate others back. It does seem to be a reciprocal kind of relationship. For example, if the husband doesn't appreciate whatever contribution his wife makes to the marriage, then it is likely she isn't going to appreciate his contributions, either. And vice versa.

My husband hears me thank him quite frequently. I thank him for working, for making money, for putting up with my crazy moods, and for handling my current illness with aplomb and grace. I am not sure I thank him enough.

Now, he seldom thanks me in words. He is not a vocal man. He is a quiet guy. But he thanks me when he stops by the grocery store when I'm not up to shopping. He thanks me by working hard to earn money to pay the bills, something especially important now that I am not able to work as I once did.

So our appreciation styles are different. Sometimes I don't recognize his actions as appreciation, and sometimes I think my words to him go in one ear and out the other. He feels more appreciated, I think, when I actually do something for him - wash his clothes, fix a nice dinner, snuggle with him on the couch. The words are nice and I mean them when I say them, but for him I think the actions matter more.

Now me, I would like to hear the words more often. I would like for him to occasionally thank me for doing the laundry or washing the dishes. I also like for him to surprise me with a small present, even a box of Tic Tacs. Otherwise I begin to feel taken for granted.

These are different languages we're speaking, but we're saying the same thing - I love and appreciate you. However, we may not be able to understand one another if we're not listening, or not trying to listen, anyway.

I am reminded of a book I have here somewhere called The Five Love Languages. I think this applies to feeling appreciated as well as feeling loved.

In the book, the five different ways of communicating are words of affirmation (my thanking my husband), acts of service (my washing the clothes), affection (hugs and kisses, snuggles on the couch), quality time (being together without the TV or anything else on), and gifts (the person remembers you and gives you something to show appreciation).

I think if your way of showing appreciation is to buy someone a gift, but the other person doesn't want a gift, they want a compliment or acknowledgement of something they did, then you have a communication problem. I can see where this could escalate into an argument very quickly. "I bought you a present and you don't like it," "Oh, I like it, but it's just a candy bar, and I did all this work and you didn't even notice," and boom. There you go. The round starts and everybody's in the ring, boxing gloves in hand.

Learning not to take it personally can be difficult. You do things day in and day out, and nobody ever says thanks for it. After a while it feels like drudgery and it is easy to become resentful. Meanwhile, the other person is doing things for you day in and day out, and you don't recognize it, and that person becomes resentful, too.

Stuff simmers. Toss in issues like financial concerns, interfering parents, children, job stress, medical issues, and any number of other things, and that resentment turns into a full-on boil, complete with steam and roiling water.

I have been married for 32 years, so I feel like I can comment on this issue with some authority. You don't stay married (and happily, at that) for such a long time without learning something.

My husband I do not necessary speak the same language of appreciation, but we have learned that appreciation comes in many forms. Just because he doesn't think to buy me a soda when he stops at the store doesn't mean he does not appreciate me. It just means he didn't think to buy me a soda. Just as if I am ill and don't do the laundry one day, it doesn't mean I don't appreciate how hard he must work to make money. It just means I was ill.

When we don't communicate, we have issues. This goes for every relationship I am in, and it goes outward in a ring that extends from my husband to family to friends to acquaintances to the media and the mixed and awful messages it offers. If you aren't listening, if you're too busy talking and thinking about what you want and not hearing the other person, then nobody is appreciating anything.

We've become a very self-centered sort of nation here in the US, where we expect to be catered to and many of us have a sense of entitlement that is out of place. I run across it all the time and it is always jarring, but too many people are entwined in their cell phones when they should be paying attention to the human being standing next to them.

Life is not a bowl of cherries, but if you have one cherry, you can appreciate that. If you're lucky enough to have the whole bowl, then you can be very appreciative. But people are not things, and showing appreciation for the one you love is not all that hard.

It just takes a little thought, and a little listening, so you can figure out what that person needs in order to feel loved.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Blog Sis. Very well spoken. As my 2nd marriage of 22 years disintegrates, I can definitely agree that those 5 stated rules are at the very core of a solid marriage. I applaud you for yours. I wish mine would have turned out different............

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