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 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 o self-worth, greater emotional investment in their work and fosters a more trusting environment.

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

We asked workshop participants, who all 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 firstly, 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.

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 over think it, and simply trust that the words will come. The receiver looks at the speaker, listens closely to the words and feels the emotion behind what they were saying, takes it in and says, “Thank you”. 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.

Try it with your partner or child tonight, and watch them taking it in….after, of course, they ask, “What do you want?

We crave being appreciated as it helps us to feel seen and heard, to feel 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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  1. Hi there Lyle

    Thank you for your contribution, you make great points.

    I have read your piece on feedback and suggest we are talking from the same book. You share it as recognition, which for me is I see and hear you. Even as I write that to know I have been recognised by my ‘Boss’, already feels empowering. Sadly, we are able to give the feedback, after all is is measurable…that should be enough…but rarely is it enough.

    As you have shared adding appreciation/recognition into the feedback is more likely to engender a better outcome. Having said that, and thinking more as I write, maybe the bigger issue is that we are generally very poor about the feedback process. It is something we have to do, rather than something that happens because it is wanted. It is seen as an overhead. Yet, when done well and driven by the employees, it has a positive outcome.

    Again, as you observe, giving appreciation is much harder to do, it requires us to think, to be, to sit, to connect with the person in front of us. It means seeing and listening to them. It means allowing us to speak what arises from our heart, rather than from our heads.

    As I have said, feedback implies performance, appreciation is about the person. Feedback is thought, appreciation is what arises from within.

    In saying all of this, like you, I am not suggesting we do away with feedback, rather we give them more appreciation/recognition.


  2. Hey Colin!

    This is a great piece! I’m not sure if your plan was to pit feedback (a popular buzz term) against appreciation to show that appreciation is needed. If that is your strategy, it worked with me! I recently wrote an article here on BizCatalyst on feedback, and I will agree that more is written on feedback than appreciation. I also agree that appreciation is much more difficult for people to do these days. But I would submit that piting feedback and appreciation against one another isn’t the best way to grow people. If feedback was given with elements of appreciation strategically placed, a person can walk out of a feedback session, whether it is “positive” or “negative” (which I shutter at even using those terms in the midst of feedback) feeling supported, ready to take on the next thing, but also knowing where and how they need to grow.
    Interested in your thoughts on this!