Recognise This! – There is tremendous power in recognition, acknowledgement and appreciation, if you give it properly and accept it properly.

I just watched a terrific TedX video I need to share with you. Given by Christopher Littlefield, founder of AcknowledgmentWorks, this short 17-minute video is well worth your time. 

Christopher starts the video with this:

“We love recognition, but we suck at it. Whether we want to admit it or not, recognition plays a huge role in our everyday lives – in our happiness, in our well-being, both at work and in our personal relationships. But the problem is we’re horrible at it. We’re horrible at giving it, we suck at receiving it. And the problem is most of us don’t even know it.”

And ends with this:

“There is a huge power in acknowledgement, recognition and praise. But because we’re often uncomfortable with it, we avoid it. When we avoid it, we rob ourselves and others of the benefit it brings. We need to get better at it. We need to rethink our relationship to recognition. We need to start looking at our own experience of it, our own relationship to recognition, and be aware of these ineffective practices and work on phasing them out of our daily use.”

In between he explains the data he gathered as a “street researcher” – 365 interviews with people he sat next to on planes or the subway – asking people, “What makes a good acknowledgement or compliment by a boss or supervisor?”

How We Sabotage Giving Recognition

Unsurprisingly, 9 out of 10 times, he got stories of bad praise practices instead, leading him to these three ineffective practices that breakdown trust and actually hurt our relationships and connections with others.

  1. Give a compliment right before asking for something.
  2. Sandwich feedback or criticism between two compliments. (As Christopher points out, “Any compliment followed by a ‘but’ is not actually a compliment.”)
  3. Ridicule a person you don’t like who is being recognised when you’re not. (More wisdom from Christopher, “It’s time to give up the idea that someone else’s success is our failure. That’s just made up!”)

Or, as Christopher puts it: “That’s not recognition. That’s manipulation!”

How We Sabotage Receiving Recognition

And then there are the destructive practices we do to ourselves such as getting in mind our own definition of success and then being unwilling to accept compliments or praise for results (even very good results) that fall short of our own definition of success. So we divert the praise; we disavow it in some way. But there are real consequences for this learned behaviour. Christopher explains:

“There’s an impact when we divert recognition. What people don’t realise is a compliment is often more about the giver than it is the receiver. When someone offers us a compliment, it’s like they’re offering us a gift. And we divert it, it’s like we’re taking that gift and throwing it back in their face. So even if you don’t like it or agree with it, just say thank you. And if it made a difference, let them know.”

Listen particularly around the 14-minute mark for a great story on just how powerful a difference this really can make.

How have you sabotaged recognition or seen others do so?

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