Give Honest, Sincere Appreciation
As I was coming up on a significant work anniversary, I was not surprised to see a card-sized envelope with no return address in my office mail. I was, however, quite surprised by the content.
Instead of the typical pre-printed card signed by the CEO, this one was different. "Bill, Thank you for the good work you do on the item set team. The high standards you hold help us maintain our gold standard reputation. Sincerely, Steph."
I was so taken aback by this personal touch, which addressed some of my core values, that I could not figure out who the hell "Steph" was, or how it was she came to know so much about my work. It was only after plugging those letters into our corporate directory that I understood it had come from our managing director, Stephen.
In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie's second point is to give honest, sincere appreciation. More than anything, people like to be understood. To believe that they are doing the right thing, and that others know and care about it. Years later, I still remember the note and how it contributed to my satisfaction for weeks.
In my study of influence, I have also recognized that the show of appreciation, and particularly the form it took, made use of other tools of persuasion.
In his seminal book Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini cites 6 "Weapons of Influence," of which I believe the note triggered three: reciprocation, liking, and scarcity. Liking is obvious - I immediately liked Stephen more as a result of the personal touch. I reciprocated by sending him a note telling him so. And, as I hinted earlier in this post, the scarcity of such honest, sincere appreciation (as opposed to the pre-printed card) really made it stand out.
Standing out, as Dr. Carmen Simon writes in Impossible to Ignore, is how we can be memorable. She describes the "mythical 10%" to suggest the modest amount most of us remember from any experience. As persuaders, our job is to cause people to remember the important 10% rather than some 10% their brains choose at random. We do this by setting it apart in some way.
In the Dale Carnegie course I attended, we discussed three types of compliments. All three types are appreciated (if given genuinely) but some are more powerful than others.
- Complimenting a "thing" (I like your shoes) is the first level. It might indicate to the recipient that you admire their taste. Yet it is a fairly short-lived compliment, as they likely will be wearing different shoes on other occasions.
- Complimenting a "trait" is better. Liking someone's eyes, or smile, is something that the person will always have with them.
- Finally, complimenting an action forms the strongest bond - particularly when paired with a consequence. So, "I like the way you laugh when you are really happy - it is contagious." would show that the other person's happiness has an effect on your own.
Stephen's note was the third type. It complimented my specific work on the item set team and indicated that it had an impact on our organization's reputation. Can't get much more meaningful than that.
It is easy to click the "Like" button. Some people get hundreds or even thousands of "likes" for their content. The appreciation is often honest and sincere. But it is not scarce, and it does not stand out. So as you go about your day, look for the things in people that you genuinely appreciate. Then tell them about it, in detail.