I love my neighborhood, especially my neighbors, but this hasn’t always been the case. When my wife and I got married 10 years ago, we felt convicted to live in community with the people around us. We felt committed to reaching out and connecting with our neighbors. When we first moved from Texas to Clarksville, Tennessee, we made Texas-shaped brownies to give out as we went door to door to meet our neighbors. NO ONE came to the door.
In one case there was a big window looking into the living room from the front porch. It was cracked open with the neighbor sitting on the other side on the couch watching TV. I was literally four feet away on the other side of an open window. Even though I could see and hear them, they didn’t come to the door. They looked over, then went back to the TV, completely ignoring me. All that changed a year ago when we moved to Rockford about a year ago.
My wife and I took a chance on a newly developed neighborhood made up of one street with a cul-de-sac at the end. At the time, ours was the only house completed. Within eight months, the other seven houses were completed and we instantly had seven new neighbors. We all found ourselves outside together enjoying the warm weather of the summer months as our kids played in the cul-de-sac. It was in those afternoons that conversation was struck, relationships were developed, and the neighborhood environment of appreciation began. Since then we have all celebrated Thanksgiving together, hosted birthday parties, and babysat for one another. We’re made up of very different people from various life stages who look out for one another and form a small but solid community.
[bctt tweet=”Living in a constant environment of appreciation will impact every relationship you have! #ThinkOrange” username=”orangeleaders”]
Spending time together and working on living healthy relationships is important. Rules and imposed expectations are only as effective as the relationship behind them. When I value my relationship with them, I want to help them, spend time with them, and get them small gifts when I’m traveling. More than a few times as I’ve marveled at the joy my neighbors bring me, I’ve thought, if only I could have this at work or live this every day at home. What gets in the way? In my experience, the thing that makes it difficult to live in a consistent environment of appreciation is navigating the balance between casual relationship time and business task time.
Most of us have no problem sharing love, care and appreciation when we’re in casual relationship mode. Even if we have trouble remembering to say something aloud about how we feel, we’re aware of our appreciation. It’s when time gets tight and things have to get done and we have to navigate with other people whether they’re our family or our coworkers that we struggle to maintain an overt stance of appreciation. Add in times when we bump into others, disagree, or find ourselves on different sides of an issue, and the air of appreciation can all but disappear.
I’ve noticed the same thing in therapy when I’ve worked with organizations or with couples. It isn’t a dramatic disregard for appreciation or even a lack of care between coworkers or family members. Almost always it is an unintentional unawareness of the differences of how we treat each other when we’re busy or in task mode versus the times we’re just hanging out and having fun. Often in therapy, families and coworkers know exactly how they should act. They’re just not sure of how to maintain it. So, I found that giving them tasks that support and confirm appreciation bridges the gap between relationship mode versus business mode.
Here are the three simple reminders, of things you can do every day, to stay focused on creating an environment of appreciation all around you.
(1) Use kind words.
I know you’ve probably heard this so many times, it’s cliche. Still, it’s so important. It’s the basis for so much miscommunication and negativity. The way we say things matters! The way we say things often determines whether the thing we say is able to be heard at all. Anything that’s worth saying can be said with kind words. Some things will inherently hurt because of the content, but there is no reason that we have to say these things hatefully or rudely. Using kind words sets you up for an environment of appreciation.
(2) Don’t assume.
Again, probably something you’ve heard all your life. Assuming can dramatically alter the filter we use to process information. If we have preconceived notions, assumptions, and judgments we often make a decision before anyone even utters a word. You aren’t omniscient. You’re not all-knowing. No matter how long you have known someone or been in a relationship with them, there is no possible way you can predict what they’re going to say. You may be right some of the time, but regardless, when we assume we’re negating any chance of growth or change. Most of the time, if we’re in a situation where we’re unhappy, that’s the very thing we want. We want things to change.
(3) Take feedback.
Everybody knows that feedback is important. Most of us work in organizations where we have routine feedback or evaluations. This is intended to help us be the best that we can be. However, there are a few things that will turn feedback into a negative result. Most of this comes from being defensive. I could talk a long time about this topic, but for the sake of brevity let me just say that we never have a reason to be defensive. We determine what we do with the feedback that we get.
Certainly, in some business situations where false impressions might hurt your job longevity, you might need to talk into the feedback that you receive. If this is the case, then refer to task #1: Use Kind Words. However, for most of us defensiveness comes when we feel like we need to counter feedback that we don’t agree with. If it’s not true there’s no real need to counter it. The person giving you the feedback isn’t the conveyor of ultimate truth. Listen to it, process whether it’s true or not, take what you can from it, and then move on. In this way, feedback can always be a positive thing that helps you be the best you can be.
Certainly, this is a very large subject. Books have been written and lectures have been given about it. Still, simply trying to hold on to these three tasks every day will help set you up for success when trying to live out a consistent environment of appreciation whether at work, at home, or with the people you live in community with.