How important is one person’s self-esteem, or lack of same, in the dynamics of our society? According to Judith Umlas, author of The Power of Acknowledgement, we can make a positive change in our world by giving a boost to those around us. It doesn’t cost anything — unless you count a few seconds of your time.
Acknowledgment is not just saying “thank you,” although there are a number of us who still need practice with that simple phrase. It is telling a person why what they did or are doing is valuable or appreciated. By acknowledging the worth of someone else’s contribution, we are lifting their spirits, validating them.
While I was unfamiliar with this theory, about 15 years ago I realized I appreciated people who were giving more than required (e.g., the cashier who packed my groceries like they were her own), but, being terminally shy, I never said anything. It occurred to me that if I were having “nice thoughts” about someone, she might like to hear them, and I slowly began sharing these thoughts.
Basically, that’s what acknowledgement is. By telling someone that what’s being done is noticed and appreciated, you are giving him or her a lift. Umlas advises that it takes practice, and comments must be sincere, but that the results are gratifying. As we make others feel better, we too will feel better.
Some people seem to “naturally” express their gratitude, as well as positive reinforcement, to those around them. For others, a few lessons are necessary. The Power of Acknowledgement gives us a set of principles and the information necessary to make it work in building better relationships, neutralizing jealousy, and producing results in the workplace. There is also a chapter on overcoming obstacles/reaping rewards and one on acknowledgement’s health benefits.
Umlas suggests that to start, we should acknowledge strangers. She explains that it is easier as strangers are less likely to question our motives. She gives examples of positive reactions to acknowledgments she has given and received. Another advantage with strangers may be that these would be brief social transactions.
People may not expect to be acknowledged for just “doing their jobs” or minding their responsibilities, but having one’s efforts noticed is a wonderful pick-me-up and incentive to continue doing well. Umlas makes the point that people can also be acknowledged by being asked for help or advice. Just as she provides methods, she explodes myths.
The Power of Acknowledgement includes a list of people the reader could acknowledge and suggestions on how to do so. The process is simple and you really can “make someone’s day.” My only concern with the recommendations is the strong-arming of someone who is not comfortable being affirmed. If someone is shy or does not like being the focus of attention, that should be respected. For many of us, it does feel good when our efforts are appreciated and our talents are recognized; but for a few, notice can be excruciating.
The Power of Acknowledgement is based on the author’s experiences and observations. Many of her ideas have been discussed at length elsewhere, and she provides a brief bibliography. The concepts are endorsed by common sense; we feel that they are valid because they feel right.
There is nothing startling in The Power of Acknowledgement, but it contains good advice that is worthy of reflection. Would the world be better if everyone felt better? Maybe that’s too much of a simplification, but I’ll bet my world would be better if everyone in it felt good about themselves. Requiring such a negligible contribution, it’s worth a try.
Bottom Line: Would I buy The Power of Acknowledgment? No. Although the author gives a valid argument, I just never find myself in the self-help section. Maybe that’s my problem.