October 15, 2019 ~ 3 min read

The power of showing appreciation

Weekly TipsSpeaking

Yesterday's article brought up the subject of relationship building in communication.

On this topic, there's a very simple practice I've been working on for the last few years that I'd like to recommend.

Express appreciation. Directly.

Did you see a speaker give a talk or presentation that you liked? Go and tell them so.

A coworker do some work that you thought was well done? Tell them.

A random stranger do something you think was kind? Tell them.

Low Barrier Kindness

One reason I practice this and recommend it is that it is a low barrier form of kindness. It costs nothing to tell someone you liked what they did, or you appreciated their work. And yet it feels good to receive.

It's also remarkably rare for most people to hear.

You might think that experts frequently hear appreciation for their work, but in reality most experts are extremely focused on what they're doing wrong rather than what they're doing right. They watch their own presentations for mistakes, self-criticize, and devalue their own skills just like the rest of us!

Relationship Building

The other thing about showing appreciation is that it starts to build a relationship. You're telling the other person "Hey, you are seen. I appreciate you."

Whether this is someone you work with every day, or someone you've never met before, that connection will make any future interactions you have with them easier.

It's also a great way to start a conversation. I don't know about you, but I'm naturally shy and it can be super hard to start a conversation. Noticing something you appreciate and calling it out is a great way to cross the invisible barrier and simply start talking with someone.

It's simpler than you might think

When I first started working on this practice, I thought I had to have something clever to say. "Hey, I really liked how you drew out that deep parallel between X and Y".


This isn't about showing your cleverness, it's simply about telling the person they are appreciated.

"That was a really good talk, I liked it"

"You did great on that project. Well done."

It doesn't need to be complicated because you're not communicating on the mental or logical level, you're communicating on the emotional level. You are appreciated. I see you as a human being, and I'm glad you're here.

And you know what? We need more of that.

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Kevin Ball

Hi, I'm Kevin Ball (alias KBall). I'm a software engineer turned trainer and coach focused on communication and leadership skills. You can follow me on Twitter, or check out my software-focused work at Zendev.com.