Cold days. Loss. New leadership. Excessive snow. New Q-Comp model. Contract negotiations. This school year, our staff has been through a lot. And, when we feel personally drained, it is hard for us to support and appreciate others even when we know how impactful that support and appreciation is to people. Moreover, support and appreciation looks different for each individual which means what we offer may not be what people need. Even more challenging, we may not communicate what we need or even know what we need.
The first step in creating an atmosphere of support and appreciation is knowing what they look like for us as individuals. Think and observe how you most often express support and appreciation to others. Is it verbally affirming someone, bringing someone a coffee or treat, or making copies for a colleague? Next, consider what you most often complain about. Is it when someone doesn’t bring you a gift on your birthday, when someone seems distracted when you stop to talk to them, or when someone doesn’t verbally recognize the work you put into a project? Finally, what is it you most request from others? Is it knowing if you have done a good job, is it finding time to talk, or is it having them complete something for you?
Once you have identified what you do and need, apply this information to determine your appreciation and support preference from the list below. Knowing this preference will help you inform others what you need, and assist you in appreciating and supporting others in the manner they find most helpful.
Words of Affirmation:
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your appreciation language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that sends your spirits skyward. Insults are not easily forgotten. You thrive on hearing kind and encouraging words that build you up.
Examples at school: give a verbal compliment, send an email of thanks, fill out an honor form
Acts of Service:
Can helping with copies really be an expression of appreciation? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most wants to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter. When others serve you out of appreciation (and not obligation), you feel truly valued and loved.
Examples at school: offer practical help, grab an extra resource for someone, pick up copies, bring something to the mailroom, share a worksheet/lesson
Don’t mistake this appreciation language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the support, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures. Gifts are heartfelt symbols to you of someone else’s appreciation and support for you.
Examples at school: give a small “I thought of you” gift, a small birthday gift, a coffee, an extra cookie, funny post-its etc.
In Quality Time, nothing says “I am here for you” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the computer off, papers and tests down, and all tasks on standby—makes you feel truly special and appreciated. Distractions, postponed activities, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful. Whether itʼs spending uninterrupted time talking with someone else or doing activities together, you deepen your connection with others through sharing time.
Examples at school: give someone your undivided attention, display genuine interest in what someone says, listen and don’t interrupt, get together outside of school, eat lunch together
A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, and thoughtful touches on the arm—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and connection. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or cold-shoulder can be destructive and isolating. Appropriate and timely touches communicate warmth, safety, and appreciation to you.
Examples at school: make someone feel connected with physical connection, give a strong handshake, a hug, a pat on the back, compliment them on something with a high-five
(Adapted from “The Five Love Language” by Gary Chapman)
When people feel appreciated, they are excited about going to work. They are committed to [their workplace], and their performance is likely increased. Learning to speak the appreciation language of each employee is extremely important. One size does not fit all” (“The Five Love Languages” blog, Sept. 14, 2011).