“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” - Voltaire
After every Junto Forum session, Tutoring Roundtable, and Mentor Team Meeting we close the experience with a round of appreciations. Everyone in the room has the opportunity to share something they appreciate, and since the prompt is a general one, anything goes.
What matters most is at the end of these highly productive sessions, there is a moment to exchange reflections and express something genuine that may have otherwise gone unspoken. And what I’ve learned is simply opening the door, creating this opportunity, can allow for a powerful expression of human connection.
After being in hundreds of Junto sessions and hearing perhaps thousands of appreciations, here’s what I have come to believe about them.
It’s More Than Gratitude
A sincere appreciation is bigger and deeper than gratitude. It’s not just a “thank you” or a kind response after an exchange. It’s an individual’s expression of their awareness and recognition of something powerful, wonderful, and true to them. And sharing what they saw, experienced or felt with those around them, allows others to recognize and appreciate it as well.
It Shifts Energy
The moment appreciations begin in any Junto session, the energy of the room shifts, sometimes quite abruptly.
Ten minutes before the session officially concludes, we begin the round of appreciations, at times cutting short a productive business discussion around anything from year-end budgeting, to performance management, to creating company values. But we honor those ten minutes for closing regardless of the nature of conversation beforehand. And we never skip it.
Often there’s a long pause before the first person shares, and that’s perfectly fine. We could all use a little more “pause” in our lives anyway.
And once the appreciations begin and that first person goes, the dynamic of the room completely changes, and elevates to a new, fresh place. Collectively we lift our focus out of "the weeds" and observe the nature of the conversation and experience that we all just participated in.
It Provides a Window
During appreciations, we get a chance to see what stood out to her. And what mattered to him. And hear the impactful observation of the quieter voice in the room, while seeing a shift in perspective from someone who you might not expect it from.
It's Genuine and True
Thankfully, I can’t recall observing anyone “b.s.’ing” their appreciation. Not every appreciation has to be deep and earth-shattering by any means. But the most important thing is it is true to the person sharing, even if it’s a simple appreciation for the weather. The most important thing is that each person is being sincere, genuine, and true to themselves through what they choose to share.
It Creates Unity While Celebrating Differences
During almost every round of appreciations, you’ll see people leaning in, listening actively, and nodding their heads as others share.
Appreciations bring people together. Appreciations make us feel bonded in our truth, vulnerability, and humanity. Appreciations do not require that we share the same perspective. Appreciations do not require that we all agree. Rather, appreciations provide the space to honor divergent perspectives, enjoy contradictions, and celebrate differences.
Most of all, appreciations are words freely spoken by individuals, experienced collectively by a group of unique and diverse people, and shared within a safe and trusting environment where people can be themselves.
How to Deliver a Sincere Appreciation
As Thanksgiving week is upon us, my challenge to you is to use the upcoming opportunities at the holiday dinner table, with your friends group, or in your household to go beyond simply sharing what you're grateful for, and instead lead a round of genuine appreciations.
Here are my steps to do that:
Ensure everyone is present. Make sure it’s a moment when everyone can be present, both mentally and physically. Put phones away, turn the TV off, make sure the cook is out of the kitchen (perhaps seated with a glass of wine), and that no food needs immediate attention.
Define an appreciation. Explain that a true appreciation is more than just gratitude. It’s an opportunity to reflect on and share something real, true-to-you, something you felt, a moment that made you pause, and/or someone who genuinely impacted you.
Emphasize the simplicity. Stress that anything goes, REALLY. There’s no right or wrong appreciation. As long as it’s genuine and true to you, it doesn't matter if it's grand or small. And by creating this space, you will have opened the door for something special to occur on its own.
Ask everyone to share. Make sure that everyone speaks once before anyone speaks twice. It’s important that each individual gets the same respect, time and space. But you can pass and wait a while before sharing. No need to go in order around the table.
Allow for pauses. Let people think. Let yourself feel awkward. Be prepared to speak first, especially if the group might need an example. But also allow the space for anyone who’s ready to share.
Most importantly, enjoy. Soak up the moment of being with people you care for and sharing things that are deeply felt for each of you. And remember that there is no need to go around the table or in any specific order. Do what’s natural for your group.
I’ll close with my appreciation for you, your care for the Junto community, and for taking some of your precious time to read this post, and perhaps putting your own appreciations to work. :)
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving.