These 5 Powerful Words Can Change Every Interaction for Better
Are you facing a difficult situation at work? In your home life? With a friend?
I’m with you there.
But what if I showed you how things might be different?
A while back I worked on a book project with a highly-driven CEO type dude. You’ve heard of Type A personalities? This guy was Type Triple A.
In my mind I called him Really Difficult Author.
My task was to turn a series of lectures he’d given into a book. I’d write up a chapter, and it would be stinking fantastic. I mean, even Shakespeare would be blown away.
But Really Difficult Author hated everything I did. He criticized. Nitpicked. Tinkered. Fiddled. Crossed out huge fantastic sections. Yet another draft would be needed.
After several weeks of working with Really Difficult Author, I felt discouraged and disrespected. I concluded that Really Difficult Author could not be satisfied, no matter how hard I tried.
It was time to have The Talk.
So we did.
I explained I always want the authors I work with to be completely satisfied with a finished product, and he was welcome to edit anything I turned over to him. The first draft is always written in pencil. But he also needed to trust my experience in the book world and have the confidence to let a chapter lie without tinkering with it forever.
Really Difficult Author confessed he wasn’t the easiest guy to work with. He was nervous, wanting his book to be perfect (as all authors do), and thanked me for going the extra mile with him. We clarified some more roles and boundaries, then shook hands and went back to work.
Here’s the cool part. Things improved. Really Difficult Author was still not the easiest guy to work with, but something must have gotten through to him, because chapters started connecting. And he deliberately and regularly started telling me how much he valued the work I was doing for him. The specific phrase he used was this simple. This straightforward—
I sure do appreciate you.
That phrase—and the new attitude behind it—went a long way. He criticized far less and valued far more. The more valued I felt, the more I was willing to keep moving forward, even to keep going the extra mile.
I started seeing him differently too. Yes, he wasn’t always easy to work with. But he was a genuinely smart guy who developed strong, helpful content that people needed to hear. He could move books to the point of sales, always important in this business, and he contractually cut me in for a piece of the royalties, always welcomed. Bottom line: he was doing a Good Work. And it was my job to help him extend his reach through the vehicle of a book.
In my mind I changed his name. No longer did I think of him as Really Difficult Author. He became Really Vital Author. As he was learning to appreciate me, I was learning to appreciate him too.
Well, that book got finished and published. Years passed, and Really Vital Author and I now have worked on 3 books together. He keeps hiring me. And I keep saying yes.
His personality type is still Triple A, but I think I’ve learned a thing or two about the idiosyncrasies that make him human, and I think he could say the same for me. Instead of being annoyed with each other, we’ve deliberately developed an appreciation of each other. That’s made a ton of difference in how we interact.
Think about how powerful those five little words—and the attitude behind them—can be:
I. Sure. Do. Appreciate. You.
Consider how they can flip a situation around and provide helpful perspective. When we intentionally blanket a situation with appreciation, we choose to see what’s good instead of what’s wrong. When that happens, we can stop feeling annoyed, and start feeling encouraged, compassionate, and even grateful.
Nope, we don’t ignore the Wrong in a situation or sweep Reality under a rug. We still see the Truth of a matter. We still might need to confront a person, or hash things out, or fix, or buffer, or quit, or renegotiate a contract, or help smooth things over.
But we deliberately choose to see the good. We allow our new broadened perspective to color the situation for better.
Here’s another example:
The other night I needed to drive to my oldest daughter’s school to pick her up. It was a dark and stormy 9:30 p.m., and she and her classmates had been to the state capitol that day on a fieldtrip. I confess that initially I wasn’t altogether happy about leaving my warm, comfy couch to make the drive.
On the way, I found myself quietly grousing about how inconvenienced I felt. I grumbled to myself about how public schools in general sure ask parents to Go The Extra Mile. I felt annoyed about how This Parenting Teenagers Thing sure requires us moms and dads to play chauffeur a lot.
If I had stayed stuck in my irritableness, how do you think the rest of the evening might have gone?
Fortunately, I remembered that perspectives can be switched up. When the bus pulled in, I watched the teachers and administrators climb off and start organizing the kids for pick up, and I started putting myself in their shoes.
I asked myself a simple question: what kind of a day had it been for them?
I started imaging all the work it took to organize the fieldtrip in the first place. I started respecting them for their dedication to their jobs. I felt a sense of gratitude that they’d cared enough to Go The Extra Mile for my child and her classmates.
Then I spotted my daughter in the crowd. She caught my eye and gave me a cool head nod, then walked over and climbed into the back of our SUV. She was tired too, but on the ride home she was open and friendly and funny and pleasantly conversant, and told me all about the great day she’d had.
As we reached home, I thought about how I sure do love her—and how genuinely willing I am to Go The Extra Mile for her.
We sophisticated adults. How often do we need to wrestle with these simple and straightforward lessons? It’s okay to remind ourselves about them again and again. Let’s call this one the grace of our growing up.
It’s where we deliberately exchange our irritation for appreciation. It’s where we deliberately say—and act upon—those five simple words.
I sure do appreciate you.
Question: how has the power of appreciation worked in your own life? Give an example.