Using the 5 languages of appreciation

Using the 5 languages of appreciation

We tend to communicate with others using style norms that come most naturally to us—direct vs. indirect, people-focused vs. fact-focused, etc. While not inherently good or bad, our ability to effectively communicate and truly connect with colleagues improves when considering their preferred style, not just our own. This awareness of and adaptation to others’ preferences is known as the Platinum Rule: treat others the way they want to be treated.

This rule applies to all forms of communication, including how we demonstrate appreciation for others. On a subconscious level, your brain is continuously scanning for a sense of importance and belonging at work, asking questions such as: Am I valued here? Do others care about me? Is my work appreciated?

When we perceive negative responses to these questions, the brain experiences a social threat. What’s fascinating, and perhaps most alarming, is that the brain processes this social threat in the same way that it processes a physical threat. As the survival mechanism and emotional reaction take over, we lose access to the brain’s executive functions and critical thinking becomes somewhat inaccessible. Unfortunately, this is the part of our brain we need to keep online and functioning if we want to perform our best at work.

The same applies to our employees and colleagues. If they don’t feel valued and appreciated, their brains experience this same reaction and they, too, lose access to their best thinking and work. That’s a problem.

So let’s ensure they do feel valued. Let’s intentionally communicate in a way that is meaningful to them. Each person’s language of appreciation is different, and we risk miscommunication when taking a “one size fits all” approach.

Using the five languages of appreciation, created by Drs. Gary Chapman and Paul White, can help you identify each employees’ preferred language and learn how to adjust your communication to better connect with them.

I recommend the following next steps.

1. Take the assessment. You can access the comprehensive Motivating By Appreciation assessment online or by purchasing the book. Alternatively, I’ve created a condensed version, influenced by my own question design over the past few years that I use in team workshops—download it here. (You’ll notice that I do not include “physical touch” in the assessment, but do offer tips for appropriately communicating it in the workplace in step 4 below.)


2. Ask team members to complete the assessment.

3. Discuss as a team. In addition to discussing overall results and insights, have each team member share the following:

– 3 meaningful ways to communicate appreciation for me and my work are…

– 1 thing others should avoid doing that makes me feel unappreciated is…

– Today’s distanced environment has impacted my feelings of appreciation from and connection with the team in these ways…

4. Implement! Use awareness of the languages of appreciation to apply the Platinum Rule with your colleagues. Scroll through the slides below for tips on ways to better communicate with different styles.



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