The Truth About Relationships #2: The Art of Appreciation
The number one factor in satisfying relationships is appreciation. I know. It sounds too simple. If you think about it, though, every one of us knows how good it can feel to be appreciated! When we were children, we loved to be noticed for who we were and what we did. If you have children, it’s true for them, too. And it’s true for you and me today. Appreciation tells us that we are noticed and that we have something of value to offer others.
But appreciation is, seemingly, not easy. Somehow, we are uncomfortable with it. We resist giving it and receiving it. Why? Several reasons come to mind. Perhaps it feels somehow exposing. Maybe it feels like a set-up for disappointment or failure. Or does our thinking go something like this?… “No need to say thank you, it’s my job.” Or, “Why should I be appreciated for what I should be doing anyway?” Or more contemptuous, “So now you want praise for just being an adult and doing what needs to be done? Grow up!” These are all things I’ve heard from couples when talking about the desire to be appreciated.
We are missing the point. Just because we do something out of necessity or responsibility does not mean that we can’t appreciate a person’s willingness and action! I love it when Betsy says, “Thanks for packing the kids’ lunch’s,” or, “Thanks for vacuuming, for making the beds, for putting the kids’ down, for making dinner, for doing the dishes, for working so hard to make money for our family, for taking a risk tonight going out with new neighbors, or for…” The possibilities are endless!
If you were a fly on the wall in my house, you would probably think we were ridiculous. Over time, appreciation has just become a regular part of our daily interaction. It’s motivating and pleasant, and creates a positive energy that is deeply satisfying; that often “cuts through the sludge” when any one of us is less than excited to do some task that needs to be taken care of (which is also a daily occurrence in our family!).
John Gottman researched what he termed the 5:1 ratio. Five compliments to every one criticism. The 5:1 ratio has been shown, across time, to be predictive of satisfying relationships. Less than the 5:1 ratio and you are in trouble in your relationship (statistically). It’s kind of common sense, isn’t it? But we forget.
What works against the 5:1 ratio? The human brain! The human brain, it seems, is wired to pay attention to the negative – that which is not working, that which needs fixing or improving, that which needs changing, that which is missing, and/or that which is not pleasing. It’s survival, I suppose. But relationships don’t thrive when we are in survival mode. And in our daily lives, we don’t generally need to be operating out of survival mode.
So, why not give something different a try? Why not try highlighting that which IS working? That’s called APPRECIATION! In some ways, it’s simply positive reinforcement. It works with children. It works with dogs. And it works for you and me! Simple? Yes. Easy? Yes and No. The simple truth, though, is that it works. And your relationship is worth it.
If you are struggling with creating a culture of appreciation in your relationship, or if you are having relationship challenges of any kind, one of our therapists can help. Give us a call at 303-393-0085 or visit us on the web at www.foundationsfamilycounseling.com and we can help you take the first step to improving your relationship.
~ Clinton J. Nunnally, LPC