Complaining always seems so easy – most of us tend to speak up when we don’t like something, and at times it’s very important that we do so. Some people take this to extremes and seem to do nothing but complain. Fortunately, most of us complain only when necessary, using the process in a constructive way to effect positive changes. But what about the other side of the equation – commendations? How often do we actively speak up when we DO like something? How often do we take the time to say thank you when someone has done a good job? Although I try hard to show appreciation for things others do, I am often guilty of not taking the initiative to offer a commendation, and a recent experience showed me that withholding praise could have far-reaching consequences.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never filled out one of the course reviews that come in the student manual. Actually I did fill out one for the very first course I took, but never bothered to mail it. Most of the time I’ve been happy with my courses and happy with my tutor, so I never felt the need to say anything. However, I was recently talking with one of the course directors at AU, discussing a course that I had particularly enjoyed. He asked me who my tutor was. When I told him, he advised me that student feedback for that tutor had not been very positive, and the tutor was no longer working for AU. I could not believe that other students had said the tutor was aloof and unhelpful. I told him my experience had been excellent, the tutor had explained interesting things about the course to me at length, and had really brought the course alive for me. Rather than being aloof, I found the tutor very friendly and approachable. Unfortunately, because I never bothered to send in my course review complimenting the tutor, the university apparently only received negative feedback. While there may be a variety of reasons why the tutor no longer works for AU, I could not help but wonder if I could have made a difference by sending in my positive course review!
Of course, I realize that when it comes to tutor-student relationships, everyone’s experience is unique and complaints may be quite justified at times. However, when a tutor does a good job they deserve acknowledgement.
Saying thanks and offering praise should be a larger part of our daily routine. As a parent, I often forget to praise my daughters. It is so easy to yell at them for having a messy room, or for leaving wet towels on the floor, or not finishing an assigned task. It should be just as easy to say, “my, you look nice today” or “good job on that school assignment” or even just “thank you for being a great kid!”
People in intimate relationships, such as spouses, may take each other for granted too. Acknowledgement of the other’s hard work and contribution to the relationship is a small thing that can mean a great deal. It takes so little effort to say, “I really appreciate what you do,” but instead all too often we speak only words that are negative and critical. In the workplace we may acknowledge the efforts of our co-workers, but many employers and managers fail to do the same, perhaps subscribing to the viewpoint that it is not necessary to say thanks to someone for doing the job they are paid to do. Yet I know how much it means to me when my manager takes the time to compliment me on a job well done. Not only does it encourage me and motivate me to keep doing my best, but also it puts me in a positive frame of mind that affects my interactions with others. Unfortunately, not only do some think it unnecessary to say thanks when a person does a job they are paid to do, some also show no appreciation for those who volunteer their time for little or no money. This past summer, Edmonton hosted the World Track and Field Games with the assistance of thousands of volunteers. Many of these volunteers freely devoted hundreds of hours and effort, yet were left feeling unappreciated and unthanked.
This was especially true for those participating in the performances at the opening and closing ceremonies, many of whom stated afterwards that they would never get involved in such a venture again due to how they were treated. Volunteers are the backbone of any non-profit organization, and to lose their support due to lack of appreciation for their efforts is a fatal mistake.
When we show appreciation for others, it has positive consequences for everyone. Commendations encourage people to improve, to keep working hard and moving forward. Complaints discourage people, build negativity, and eventually cause people to give up. Saying thank you and showing appreciation will accomplish much more in the long run, regardless of whether it is a family member, a partner, a tutor, a co-worker, an employee, a volunteer, or a fellow student. I know I will be making a more conscious effort to acknowledge what others do for by remembering to say thanks more often!
Appreciation is a wonderful thing:
It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.