Feedback is Good, Appreciation is Better

How many times do we get feedback when we don’t want it and don’t receive appreciation when we crave it?

There is a subtle but important difference between feedback and appreciation. At a personal level, feedback is predominately focussed on what someone is doing and whilst aimed at improving performance, can be seen as positive or negative. Appreciation, on the other hand, is focussed on the person, who they are, who they are being, and is always positive.

We are quick to give negative feedback, less so the positive. Sadly, it is unusual to give appreciation.

There is plenty written about how to give and receive feedback, so let’s focus primarily on the art of giving and receiving appreciation.

In the workplace, many employees report that feeling appreciated by their employer and/or co-workers promotes their sense of self-worth, greater emotional investment and discretionary effort in their work and company, and fosters a more trusting environment.

For some of us, giving and even receiving appreciation is not easy….

During one workshop I asked the participants, who all knew each other and worked in the same department, to pair up and offer a word or two of appreciation to each other. For most of them, this was extremely difficult to do, both as the speaker and as the receiver.

Part of the reason it feels difficult is first, it is unusual, and secondly, it requires us to tune in and sense the other person, and then allow a word or two to arise from within. It is not something to think about, the words come from our heart.

The aspect of the person we are appreciating focuses on their being, not their doing. However, offering appreciation itself is straightforward….

The speaker looks at the recipient, pauses, and allows a word or two of appreciation to arise, not to overthink it, and simply trust that the words will come forth. The receiver looks at the speaker, listens closely to their words, feels the emotion behind what they were saying, takes it in, and says, “Thank you”.  Then swap over and repeat.

When working in groups, at the end of a meeting, invite everyone to offer a word of appreciation to the group and then to the person on their left or right.

Or, do as we did with a group of volunteers supporting the Global Angels charity, in disadvantaged communities in Tsavo, Kenya.

This group had spent a week working together on local projects, sharing thoughts and feelings through sitting in a circle with each other at the end of the day.  The opportunity to share like this helps them to realise they are not alone, as others are feeling the same, and to get to see their experience through each other’s eyes, which is often very different.

At the end of the week, we give everyone an envelope containing a dozen pieces of paper.  We invite everyone to write down what they appreciate about each of those in the group, one per person, and the next day to give the piece of paper to them to put in their envelope.  We suggest that they read these notes of appreciation a few days later when they have returned home.

We crave being appreciated as it helps us to feel validated, seen and heard, valued, and to know that we matter.


Colin D. Smith
Colin D. Smith
COLIN is ‘The Listener’, a listening skills specialist and the ‘go-to’ person for individuals and teams who want to be heard, think for themselves, and transform their business and personal relationships through active listening. Colin has that innate ability to actively listen to people. He works with management, project and creative teams, facilitating the development and improvement of their listening and thinking skills. Thereby equipping them to more effectively meet their business, relationship and service challenges. He also works privately with individuals, enabling them to feel heard and valued, to think more clearly for themselves, articulate their creative ideas, address their personal concerns, and achieve their personal and professional goals. Colin has had a varied and successful career in consultancy, business development, IT and customer support, across many sectors, including finance, motor, retail and the NHS. In looking back he realises that much of his success was due to his listening and connecting abilities. His inquisitive and curious mind also enables him to explore, with others, unusual, thought-provoking, yet grounded, observations and alternative approaches to business, people, systems, and change. To make things happen, and to take ideas and thinking further, he connects his Clients with his trusted network of entrepreneurs, consultants, thought leaders, free thinkers, coaches and change makers.

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    • Hi Diane, thank you for your contribution, it is much appreciated.

      I guess, no surprise at all that you find yourself here.

      Loving what you are noticing and realising.


  1. In my experience, voicing appreciation has a lot in common with writing a gratitude journal: One gets into the habit of looking for things to appreciate and then they tend to appear more readily.

    Giving appreciation is one of the things Americans generally have been better at than many Europeans. Danes and Germans are horribly shy/private/(negative). Often they first get confused and suspicious but then befuddled and secretly pleased when they hear kind words.

    • Hi Charlotte, always great to read your thinking, thank you.

      I agree that the more we look for things to appreciate the more we find them.

      I like that, ‘secretly pleased’. We all want to feel heard, feel valued and to know that we matter.


  2. Yes, getting words focused on who you are is helpful.

    Great reflection Colin!

    Receiving appreciation initiates positive emotions connected with people.

    And a feeling that who you are matters to another person.

    I’ve found that giving appreciation to another lifts you as well as the other.

    Small, simple, even silly things make a difference.

    Especially in such a time as this.


    • Thank you Cynthia for your kind observation and my apologies for not replying sooner.

      You make a great point about appreciation being good for both the giver and the receiver. I would go further and say that it also benefits the relationship and anyone else who happens to be in earshot.

      Agreed, small simple, even silly things make a difference. And, all of these small things add up when done regularly and consistently.