Appreciation: a key to being heard

According to Dr. Gottman’s research, the masters of relationship had 20 times more positive interactions than negative interactions during everyday interactions, and five times more positive than negative interactions during times of conflict.  Our ratio of positive to negative interactions is strong when our relationships are full of fondness, affection, gratitude and humor.  When we create rituals that build gratitude and affection for one another, we are putting our relationship in what Dr. Gottman calls “the positive perspective”. When our relationships are in the positive perspective, we are more able to hear our partner’s needs. 

When expressing our needs, it can be helpful to include what we appreciate and what we admire about the other person. When we express that, we can help our partner be able to hear us.  

When we are deeply entrenched in the negative perspective, or when our needs have been building up, it can be hard to stop and express appreciation. In his book Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs describes this pattern as “the crazy cycle.” He says that when a man feels disrespected, he responds without love. When a woman feels unloved, she responds without respect.  He says that the one who considers him/herself more mature should be the one who takes the first step towards expressing love and respect. 


"Culture of appreciation" practice #4: Associate thankfulness with a daily ritual

One way that we can practice gratitude is to create gratitude rituals associated with a time of day.  For example:

Mealtimes: We can make a routine at mealtimes to share what we are thankful for.  When we do this, we increase our ratio of positives to negatives, we increase fondness and affection, and we get to know each other better.

Bedtimes:  When we tuck our children into bed, we can take time to share what we are thankful for.  When we get into bed, we can take 5 minutes to write down a few things we are thankful for in a journal.  

Any other daily routine:  We can think about what we are thankful for every time we brush our teeth.  One of my gratitude rituals is to use my "Thankful" app when I get on the elliptical every morning.  

Culture of appreciation practice #3: schedule it and breathe it

Another strategy that we can use to increase gratitude in our lives is to set an alarm or a daily event on our calendar that reminds us to stop and consider what we are thankful for.  We could even consider adding an element of focused breathing... taking just one minute a day to breathe deeply and to think about what we are thankful for.  We get extra credit for sharing what we are thankful for with another person when we are done!

"Culture of appreciation" practice #2: say it

Valentine's Day is a great opportunity to think about how we express our affection and thankfulness to the people that we care about.  It's an opportunity to say, "I'm so thankful for who you are and for the joy that you bring to my life."  

One way that we can do this on a regular basis is to use a strategy called "positive descriptive acknowledgements."  We say something specific that the person did, with an adjective about how it describes the person, such as desired character trait or expectation.  For example, to a child we might say "You took turns with your friend. That's friendly," or "You put away the dishes. That is helpful." We can even look at the behaviors that we don't want and look for opportunities to provide positive, descriptive acknowledgements when they do the opposite!

To our partner we might say, "Thank you for doing the dishes. That's really helpful, and it makes me feel like our family matters to you."

I am thankful for each of you who reads this.  

More details on how to move from praise to positive, descriptive acknowledgment can be found here:

Find more strategies for acknowledging children here:

Some classroom examples of providing positive, descriptive acknowledgement instead of saying "no" all the time:


This week's challenge:  Make a plan for how you can regularly tell your loved ones and friends and even acquaintances what you are thankful for and what you like about them.  

"Culture of appreciation" practice #1: write it down

A great way to start this month of appreciation is to take time to write down what we are thankful for.  We can do this in a few different ways, such as a gratitude journal and thank you notes or even "you rock" notes.  

One way that we can create a culture of appreciation is to keep a gratitude journal.  We can keep a gratitude journal near the dining room table, so that we can add to it as a family each day, or near the bed where we can reflect at the end of the day.  

Even better is to create a note habit that can be shared with the people we are grateful for.  We can write notes to loved ones to express gratitude, fondness, and affection for the ways that they have blessed us.  We can make it a regular habit to write notes when people are helpful to us, or when they do things that we really appreciate.  We can say what we are thankful for, and we can express why that person "rocks."  This gives good feelings for both the giver and the receiver, and it increases the ratio of positives to negatives in our relationships.  

This week's challenge:  Write some nice Valentines to those that you care about.  Be specific about things that the person has done that mean a lot to you, and why it means so much.  

Welcome to the "culture of appreciation" challenge!

This month our challenge is to create a culture of appreciation in our homes and in our lives.  Each Monday I will present ideas, and I encourage you to let me know what works for you!  

Why focus on appreciation?  Creating a culture of appreciation is the antidote for contempt, which is one of the biggest destroyers of relationships according to research by Dr. Gottman at the University of Seattle.  When we fight contempt, we improve teamwork in our relationships. Appreciation also increases our ratio of positive to negative, which helps our partners and our children to be able to listen better. 

Appreciation can help to improve children's behavior as well!  It increases their ratio of positive to negative interactions. It puts them in a frame of mind that allows them to learn better.  In addition, children's behavior is often a reflection of where we focus our attention.  If we focus our attention on "stop that, don't do that!" then what we get back is often the things that we don't like! If we focus our attention on "You just traded. That was friendly," then we might just get back a child who knows what it means to be friendly and feels good for doing it. 

As mentioned previously, Brene Brown found that practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives.  So we are looking for a "tangible gratitude practice."   Clearly you don't have to use all of these ideas.  

Summary:  The "culture of appreciation" challenge encourages us to find a tangible, consistent way to make appreciation a regular practice in our lives. 


A tool for remembering to increase positives


I found an app called “Lasting.” It is not by the Gottman Institute, but they say it is research tested strategies. I haven’t paid for the app, but by creating an account and doing the assessment it let me use their reminders. So multiple times a day, the app reminds me to check in with my hubby with fondness, affection, gratitude, etc. So far even without paying for the best of the content, this app is having a positive impact on my marriage. Check it out.