The client in my previous blog has begun asking her boyfriend to tell her that he loves her. When she introduced this idea of requesting that he verbally appreciate her, he responded: "I'm with you, aren't I? If I wasn't with you, I wouldn't love you. Isn't that enough?" Let me just start by saying, "No, that's not enough." The honest truth is that we need to know that we are cherished. We need to know that we're treasured by those people around us. I'm about to get a puppy, and so I've been doing all sorts of reading about how to train and interact with her. What's clear to me is that we're a whole lot like puppies. While we don't thrive from being rewarded with kibble, we do thrive when our essence is recognized.
Our essence is who we essentially are at the depth of our being. Merriam-Webster defines essence as " the individual, real, or ultimate nature of a thing." When we value another's essence, we're not just acknowledging the qualities of an individual that are unique to that individual, we're acknowledging who they elementally are to us in that moment.
To detect essence, requires a quality of open-hearted seeing. We need to be able to look with appreciative eyes. Noticing essence is distinct from noticing something that that person has done or that they have. Being appreciated for doing a job well-done feels good. Being acknowledged for who we are essentially feels amazing!
Emotional Intelligent Behavior
So my client showed him how she wanted to be acknowledged. So often we ask our significant others to just guess how we want it. We ask them to be mind readers, to just know. Most of us need to be taught this. As advanced as our culture is scientifically, we have some catching up to do when it comes to emotional intelligent behavior. In order to show him, she looked at him for a second or two, connected with his essence and said, "You are a deep, sensitive, and sexy man." When she did, she said that she saw him melt, that all of his defenses came down.
Why? Because he was seen. When we share our appreciation for another, we're basically saying, "I see you, and I love what I see." So rarely do each of us have the experience of truly being seen or known. When it happens, it's like a healing balm. Truly being known, being seen, is what each of us longs for.
Timing is Everything
Once people learn how to acknowledge, they start to see how powerful it is. It's powerful because it creates a sense of connectedness. People around us feel connected to us when they know that they are seen. And when they do, their best comes out. But there's a timing to it. I know people who acknowledge so much that it loses its potency.
In addition, there are times when it should and should not be used. The bottom line is that it has to come from an authentic place. We all can sense an authentic boiling up of love, care, or affinity for another. It's in those moments when we feel or sense that that acknowledgement can and does create connection. When it's used in the form of manipulation, it feels saccharine and manipulative.
And there are recipients, who no matter how authentic our words of appreciation are, have a hard time receiving. Some people just have a hard time being admired. To receive words of appreciation are seen as prideful. When that's the case, no matter how authentic our words, they will never land.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words
Each of us must develop the capacity to express our care for one another. It has to come from an authentic place. And, at the same time, that care must be backed with acts that represent that care. The two have to occur, not necessarily simultaneously, but without action, words are just that, words. When our word and action are one and the same, our expressions of love and care for one another are powerful and transformative for all to see. The very few relationships that I've seen that express a depth of caring consistently marry both words and deeds. At the heart of their expression is care.
The Basics: How to Share Appreciation
- Start to pay attention to those moments when you sense love, care, or affinity for another. That's often the best time to acknowledge them. If you're not habituated to noticing this sense of love and care, make that your practice for a week. Notice each time it arises.
- Once you notice it, give expression to the feeling. You might say, "I feel love for you," or "You make me feel warm inside," or "My life feels whole with you in it," or "I really appreciate the joy you bring to my life."
- Next, take a moment to look in the direction of the person. When you look, you're looking with a different set of eyes. You might say that these are the eyes of appreciation. You want to notice, in the moment, what you deeply and profoundly appreciate about the other person. Remember, it's just a moment. Don't take too long. Essence is obvious. If you keep looking for something, you will totally miss the mark.
- Next, offer your appreciation in a "You are..." statement. For example, "You are a bright light who brings warmth wherever you go," or "You are deep soul," or "You are gorgeous." Because essence has a poetic quality, metaphor can be a powerful form of acknowledgement.
- Once you've offered a "You are..." statement, don't keep talking. Pause and notice how your words landed. Were they received? Were they blocked or deflected? And if they landed, notice what's present between you and the person your acknowledging. Is there more love and affinity?