Don’t Just Appreciate People for What They Do


Our boys have been working hard at school. After seeing their recent report cards, we wanted to affirm and appreciate them for their good work. We understand basic psychology well enough to know that appreciating their behavior will likely result in more of that behavior. But we’ve also come to realize that placing our appreciative emphasis only on their behavior will likely result in the development of only that, their behavior. And they will grow into human doings more than human beings.

What’s more central to our long-term success in personal relationships and at work: behavior or character?

calm woman meditating reciving power by light

Sure, everyone needs periodic feedback on their behavior, both appreciative and corrective. But think about what might happen if we showed more gratitude for who people are instead of just what they do.

This distinction is core to Dale Carnegie Training’s methodology. One example is the framework Be > Do > Get. It’s based on an understanding that what we get (our results) comes from developing who we are, which ultimately influences what we do. In other words, what we do over time is a by-product of who we are. This is why Dale Carnegie trainers give “you are” more than “you did” feedback.

When someone appreciates another person for what they do, the person giving the appreciation holds onto their power over the other person. When someone appreciates another for who they are, they’re transferring their power to that person.

As I wrote in last week’s post, almost everyone, to some degree, judges themselves based on what others say about them. So when we appreciate people for things they’ve done, we usually prompt them to maintain the perception of doing those things. On the other hand, when we appreciate someone for who they are, we usually prompt them to want to be more of that person.

Seeing who people are requires discernment.

On one level we can appreciate behaviors or outcomes:

  • Great presentation!
  • Nice work closing that deal.
  • Well said!
  • You handled that well.
  • Thanks for working so hard.

While there’s nothing wrong with those comments, imagine the power of incorporating more of these “you are” statements:

  • You are engaging.
  • That deal is another example of your resilience.
  • You are so thoughtful when you speak.
  • Tricky situations like that reveal your level-headedness.
  • You are a committed person.

That’s what we did with our kids after we saw their report card. We intentionally recognized them not just for what they accomplished but also for what hard workers they are and how committed they are to their educations. We told them that we’re proud of who they are and that their characters will create opportunity for them in the future.

What are you appreciating in others? Imagine the impact you could have if you were to appreciate people more for who they are than for what they do.

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