When was the last time you said thank you? Was it to the cashier at the grocery store out of politeness? Was it to your spouse for helping you carry in the groceries? Was it to a friend who was there for you when you had a hard day?
What about the last time you received a “thank you” from someone else? Or when did you receive praise? For most of us, this is the more difficult question: whether due to disqualifying the positive events of our lives or genuinely not receiving praise, it can be difficult to identify positive words that have been spoken about you.
How about this: when was the last time you asked for praise or affirmation? When did you express what you needed to someone close to you? If you can think of an example, what did that feel like for you? If not, what holds you back from asking? Would you feel needy? Like the praise was forced?
Listen to this short, three-minute TED talk from Dr. Laura Trice about the importance of genuine, authentic praise.
How can you up your praise quotient in your own life?
Offer specific and genuine praise to those around you.
Saying a simple “thank you” is better than offering no praise at all. But to take it a step further, think of one or two specific affirmations that you can offer another person or specific actions for which that you are thankful. This type of praise helps others to know that you see them and their efforts, which, in turn, feels more genuine and authentic.
Offer praise rather than assuming the other person knows you’re grateful.
Dr. Trice shares a powerful example from her work with addicts. She indicates that the core wound of many addicts comes from their parents neglecting to tell their child how proud they were of him or her. Often parents talk about this pride with others, but did not directly express that pride to their child.
We can’t assume that our loved ones know how we feel about them if we don’t express it in words. Take time to thank your spouse for something that you usually take for granted, or offer an “I love you” just because. As Dr. Trice suggests, thank your children for completing their chores, even if it’s what’s expected of them.
Ask yourself: what praise do I need to hear?
If you’re feeling down or having a hard time feeling appreciated, think through what you need to hear that would help you feel more secure. Do you want to be recognized for the contributions you offer to your workplace? What about the parenting “wins” you’ve had lately? Or how you put effort into finding the perfect gift for your spouse? Make a list of these areas, and then identify: where can you offer that praise to yourself? Where would it be helpful to hear that praise from others?
Acknowledge the vulnerability it takes to ask for what you need.
When she gets down to the “why” of the difficulty related to asking for praise or thanks, Dr. Trice reveals that it is a vulnerable ask. By requesting specific affirmations, we are indicating our weakness or a need. It is difficult to admit this need, as we fear it could be used against us or withheld from us in the future. Asking to be praised involves risk and trust.
For some of us, having our needs met might be the most vulnerable experience we could have. Perhaps we aren’t used to others meeting our needs, or we’re used to having to fight for ourselves. It can be both healing and redemptive to ask for what you need and to receive it.
Practice asking for the praise and affirmation you need to hear.
After you’ve listed out your needs, seek out the people you trust to ask for them to offer praise or appreciation for you. Choose someone who is safe first and who you trust to be able to offer genuine praise. Get creative with your ask and offer praise for them as well. Create this as a regular practice in your life.
Do you struggle to feel appreciated? Are you feeling taken advantage of, used, or disappointed by the lack of praise in your relationships? Are you struggling with negative thoughts about yourself? At Restored Hope, I offer individual and couples counseling at my Ann Arbor office in Michigan to help you understand your needs more fully and learn how to communicate with others about the praise you need. Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or email me today to hear more about how I can help you.