Appreciation: The Secret Behind A Happy Ending

23 Feb

The thing that enchants us most in many fairytales is the “happily-ever-after” endings. They are magical, they are captivating, and they make you want to have that kind of life. But the reality is, we hardly know the secret or trick to make our lives as wonderful as fairytales.

Earlier this year, a movie, Love is Not Blind, created a big buzz among Chinese people. The story is about a girl, Xiaoxian, who finds her Mr. Right after her first boyfriend breaks her heart. One thing that I remembered most from that movie is not that the main girl ends up finding her soul mate, but that the words her ex-boyfriend says to her when they break up. He says: “I am tired of your arrogance; you’re condescending. You are always right! And you never show appreciation to what I have done!”

Wait and rewind! Yes, here’s the word to catch: Appreciation! The subtle differences in the meanings of the words in different languages always amaze me. If you put this word into Thesaurus.com, you get: admiration, gratefulness, understanding, regard. I like this word so much because no word in Chinese conveys thankfulness and recognition at the same time.

Appreciation—this word is what sustains relationships and is the secret of the happily-ever-after ending. However, appreciation is not only for relationships between couples. It exists universally. For example, a week ago, I noticed that the most commented article on Harvard Business Review was Why Does Appreciation Matters So Much.

Indeed, communication is reciprocal. In our communication class, we learn how to understand our audience. But we are, most of the time, the audience. We need to know how to clap and cheer, because being a good audience is equally important as being a good actor. In business settings, especially team projects, appreciation can be the glue that links the team.

This thought reminds me of a dissatisfactory team experience where we needed to evaluate initiatives and come up with recommendations. One day, my other teammate and I were trying to persuade another classmate on our team to include the information we found. Without listening to us for more than two second, she told us to shut up and went on with what she thought was right. By saying that, she completely ruled out the data analysis that we spent hours on, without acknowledging our contribution. Our project went on with low morale.

I realized from that experience, that a valuable teammate is someone who knows how to appreciate and encourage rather than being skeptical and condescending. But how can you be an agreeable teammate who people enjoy working with? Here are some steps:

Step 1: Start with yourself.

By knowing how to appreciate yourself first, you know how to appreciate others. Research shows that people tend to be overly insecure about themselves because they often times set up rigid goals that are hard to achieve. One way to boost your self-assurance is to keep a log and track your achievements. People tend to ignore the little steps in their journeys. These achievements can be as small as a little step out of your comfort zone. You can drop down action items only once a week. In the long term, you can see how much you have improved, and you will start to treasure and appreciate your little efforts.

Step 2: Pay attention to others.

After knowing how to appreciate your little achievements, you can understand how important little efforts can be a big deal for other people. People in general enjoy attentions. Friendships are always established based on care and understanding. First pay attention to the positive aspects your teammates bring to the team. Their experiences, their creativity, and even their personalities can make a big difference in team communication. Appreciation and encouragement are what stimulate teammates to fully utilize their expertise and bring positive impact to the team.

Step 3: Shout out for your teammate.

In one of the student associations I participate in, we will do “shout out” for others at the end of each meeting if we think they did a good job.  I find that is a good way to show that you appreciated what they did and let them know that you really enjoyed working with them. The “shout outs” can be for anything. But the main point is to bring the group together at the end of the project and affirm positive spirit. The trust you build may extend into other classes.

We all enjoy standing under the limelight, but unfortunately, not everyone can be in that spot each time. It is never too late to be reflective and see if you have been a good audience and good teammate. The steps above are my advice. What’s your advice and experience? Good wishes for group projects this semester!

by Yijun Zhang

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