The Value of Appreciation

Anyone who was a parent during the 1990's and 2000's knows who Barney is. Probably all too well. The lovable dinosaur, which was just a man in a purple suit, sang catchy kids songs teaching our children everything from being helpful, to saying please and thank you (that song is actually still burned into my brain). But strangely enough, as we get older, and [supposedly] wiser, we take things like appreciation for granted, associating etiquette with childhood choirs like taking out the trash or childhood piano lessons. But what is the real impact of appreciation in the adult world? Does appreciation actually increase the value of a person, or even an entire organization?

Appreciation for something done is typically not something that people think about. When we're busy with our day, tasks fly in and out of our heads, and we're mentally tallying up what needed to get done. When things get really busy, it can all become a blur, forcing us to put our blinders on, and focus on the work at hand. When we find ourselves in this mode, the last thing on our minds is thanking someone. Why? Because tasks can become very mechanical, like digging holes or turning knobs. When our minds get in the "zone", we turn ourselves into robots, checking off boxes and moving from task to task without remembering that we are human beings first.

When we fail to appreciate people for the effort and time that they put into something, we forget the forethought and care that people put into a task. One thing that humans are great at, and robots suck at, is the ability to appreciate what goes into a task. The act of getting something done can be thought of as a compilation of decisions, activities, and actions that allow us to navigate through issues in order to finish something. When someone bakes a cake for us, we say thanks, take pics, and dig in, without considering what went into making that cake happen. Gathering the right ingredients. Setting up a suitable location, with utensils, bowls, and oven at the ready. Getting the mixture just right, and the oven temperature normalized. Prepping the finished layers so that they sit evenly. getting the frosting put on with just the right thickness. It's a ton of time and thinking to get a cake done right. But for the birthday boy, all he thinks about is "Where's the ice cream?"

Which leads me to an important point - people who complain.

Aside from etiquette and manners, one thing that we learn as kids (unfortunately), is how to bitch and moan. When our cereal has too much milk, or when our shoelaces come undone, we sit there and cry, complain and sulk. As spoiled brats, we assume that everything belongs to us, and that the world owes us everything under the sun. When people take this habit into adulthood, they become... assholes.

The common asshole - that person who thinks of himself first, puts himself in front of others, and considers himself better and more important than others - never appreciates anyone but himself. He asks for help but never offers any. The common asshole will always assume that people should do things for him, and that he has every right to complain when something isn't the way he wants it.

This attitude also includes complaining about things that other people do, even when those people were just trying to help. When a person orders extra pepperoni on a pizza, the common asshole will complain that he hates pepperoni, even though he didn't pay a dime for the pizza. The common asshole will complain that you put the boxes in the wrong spot, even thought he didn't lift a finger to help move them. If people would take the time to appreciate what other's go through, instead of looking to point fingers, the world would be better off, more efficient, and invariably more valuable.

The value proposition of appreciation, ultimately lies in the interaction between human beings. People have to work with other people. Unless you're in a factory surrounded by robots, you eventually have to talk to a person. And when you do, understanding what other people go though to get their work done, will help you to empathize with what happens when those people go beyond their own tasks to help you. When you realize that people who help you do so even thought they don't have to, your human reaction should be one of appreciation, not criticism or complaint.

Barney taught our kids (and also reminded some of us adults too) to say please and thank you, how to spell and count, and how to be kind to each other. By appreciating others and what they do for us, it helps us to understand that we as a company, or as a society, survive and improve through cooperation. And when we cooperate, we need to appreciate in order to let other's know that there is both empathy and reward in helping each other.

If you're gonna bitch and moan when someone does something for you, don't be surprised if people change their view of you, from being "appreciative", to being an "asshole"...

... Because both words, start with the letter "A"...

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