By Dena Smith
You walk into the kitchen after a long day only to find the dishes still piled up in the sink, even though you had asked your partner that morning to wash them. A moment later, your partner walks in with a big smile and asks how your day went.
Sound at all familiar? It’s possible that your initial reaction may range anywhere from contorting your face to reflect your annoyance and frustration, to a full on verbal assault involving vehement expletives. In any case, your partner would likely look back with the kind of horrified stare that happens in the movies when someone is about to get hit by a car.
Okay, we all have the image in our mind. And, it’s quite likely, we’ve all been on either end of this kind of situation. Either way, it doesn’t feel good…giving or receiving.
So, let’s rewind and back up to the point where your partner is standing there smiling. Let’s imagine a different reaction. You pause, even though you are feeling annoyed and frustrated. You take a long, deep breath, during which you reflect on the moment and what you would prefer as the outcome: you would like to relax and have someone else wash the dishes.
Here’s something new: try replacing your criticism with an appreciation. Instead of focusing on what didn’t get done, try to find something that did. If you can’t, think of something else that you can appreciate your partner for.
In the aforementioned situation, you could say something like, “Thank you for asking about my day. It was pretty good but I’m feeling a bit worn out right now. I really appreciate that you cleared the table off and put the dirty clothes in the hamper.”
You might be surprised at the answer you receive. “Well, it wasn’t much. I really wish that I could’ve done more. I’m really sorry about the dishes. My sister called and said she needed help with a flat tire. I actually just got back home myself. I’m sorry to hear that you had such a long day. How about you sit down and I’ll get you a cup of tea after I wash these dishes?”
Now who’s the one with the shocked look on their face?! You realize that you just diverted a nuclear war. And, you got an outcome that actually met your needs.
Sometimes when we can just…pause…it can be so powerful. So is giving appreciation. Trust me…it works wonders! Try it the next time you are about to criticize someone.
Appreciation is not only a healthy communication strategy, it can also become a way of life. Here’s how you can make it a new habit in just a few weeks:
Appreciation Challenge! Share three appreciations with someone you care about every day.
It can be with your kids in the car on the drive to school, with a relative on the phone, with a neighbor during your afternoon walk, or texting your teen in the next room. For me, it’s first thing in the morning with my partner before we even get out of bed. It’s been four months now and we’ve hardly missed a day.
Also, don’t forget the power of self-appreciation. Give yourself a little love each time you look in the mirror.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude and watch your life transform.
Dena Smith is the mother of six children, ranging in age from 23 – 5. She resides with her family in Kamuela. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.