How often do you tell people how much you appreciate something they did; that you admire something about them; or that you are impressed by one of their accomplishments, talents, or skills?

Many of us are quick to point out a flaw we perceive or to offer “constructive criticism” to others in an effort to “help” them or to make continued progress towards a common goal.  With the best of intentions, we often forget to offer our acknowledgement along the way.

Over a decade ago I was participating in training on coaching skills.  Part of the training included taping coaching sessions with clients and having a mentor coach listen to the tape and provide me with feedback on the coaching interaction.  After listening to six tapes and providing me with some really stellar feedback about the skill set she was observing, the mentor offered me the following comment, which made all the difference in my learning.

“There is one thing you can work on that will propel you and distinguish your coaching as superb.  Verbalize when you think something positive about someone.”

I gave her a puzzled look, and she continued.

“I call it ‘acknowledging’”, she explained.  “When you see something good in someone and acknowledge it out loud instead of to yourself, your relationships and your work will become transformational.”

And so she gave me an exercise to practice for the next 30 days.

“Each time you have a thought about someone that is appreciative—verbalize the thought to the person instead of just thinking it.  For example, if you thought you got great service at a restaurant, tell the server what you liked about the service he/she provided.  If your spouse or significant other does something you appreciate, don’t just say “thank you”, but instead tell him/her what you appreciated and why.  If you only go to your dentist because of his calm demeanor, tell him that the next time you visit his office.  Just notice what happens—and incorporate this habit into your life and coaching practice.”

And so I did just that.  I actually did tell my dentist that very thing.  I told the supermarket clerk how much I enjoyed her cheery attitude.  I told my husband how much I enjoy him making me laugh when I’ve had a rough day.  I stopped and noticed how many positive things I was thinking about people and not verbalizing to them.  I assumed they knew that I was thinking these things about them.  Maybe they did.  But the mere fact of verbalizing these positive appreciative thoughts deepened my connection and strengthened many relationships.

So try this challenge for 30 days, fittingly beginning this Valentine’s Day week.  Acknowledge people—verbally—when you appreciate or admire something.  I’d love to hear about the impact it has for you.