“The bird which doesn’t hide itself gets shot” 

Next week, I’ll deliver a talk and workshop in Beijing, and it will be my first time there. A month later, I’ll go to Shanghai for a different company, and be part of a public Working Out Loud event on June 23rd. A woman who grew up in China commented about it on LinkedIn.

“I am curious how the WOL culture goes with Chinese culture. I was told to be “modest” when I was a kid - don’t show it even if you are good... And we have sayings like “the bird which doesn’t hide itself gets shot”.

That saying stuck in my memory. There are other translations, and there are similar expressions in other countries. Sometimes it’s "the shot hits the bird that pokes its head out” (枪打出头鸟) or “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” (出る釘は打たれる). Common interpretations are that conformity is valued over individuality, and that being open is somehow inappropriate or risky. ”Standing out invites criticism."

My first reaction to her comment was that it's your intention that matters. Indeed, it makes all the difference.

“Expressions like those are why WOL emphasizes the need to lead with generosity, to frame your work as a contribution that might help others.”

The “WOL culture” isn’t about trying to stand out or show how remarkable you are, but about being helpful, about leading with generosity as a way to build authentic relationships. If it feels fake or isn’t offered as a contribution, it isn’t WOL.  A post on Twitter yesterday highlighted this different:

“I expected #WOL to be all self promotion: look at me, how to get attention for what you are working on. [Instead] the focus was on was being empathetic, encouraging and helping others. Complete polar opposite.”

In China, WOL may not be as foreign as one might think. For example, they already embrace the concept of guanxi (关系),  "a central idea in Chinese society” that's related to “personalized social networks of influence…[in which] there is an emphasis on implicit mutual obligations, reciprocity, and trust.” Working Out Loud can be a way to extend this idea, making the networks even more open, and the relationships based more on empathy and giving freely than on obligation. As another Chinese expression says, "If you always give, you will always have.” (如果你总是给你永远拥有)

Are there differences between cultures? Yes. Is China different than Europe or the US? Yes. But “culture” comprises a wide range of human behaviors across huge numbers of people, and 1.3 billion people don’t fit comfortably into a single box. We have much more in common than the labels and expressions might lead us to believe, including our capacity for generosity and our need to build meaningful connections.

I’m looking forward to my visit.

WOL Circle Guides now in Portuguese

I’m not sure which is more amazing to me, that the Circle Guides are now in Portuguese or how those translations were done. 

A few months ago, I wrote about Tiago Caldas in Sao Paolo who wanted to translate the guides and spread Circles in his company and country. He made his intention visible online, and Portuguese-speaking people from around the world decided to join him, like Gleyce in Munich. 

“Why I have contributed to this project? When I first saw Tiago's post in the WOL community in LinkedIn asking for support to translate the guides into Portuguese, I immediately thought: how nice is that!?
Since WOL is based on generosity, I saw his post as an opportunity to keep the generosity ball rolling! As a bonus I got the opportunity to expand my network with others WOLies in Brazil and Germany that I hope to meet in person soon.”

The group grew to 11 people from multiple countries, and from companies including ZF, Bosch, Daimler, Airbus, and Schaeffler. They’re all busy professionals, yet something drove them to volunteer and take on this extra work. Daniella from Bosch wrote to me explaining why she did it.

“3 things have moved me to join the translation group:
1.       I wanted to contribute to spreading the WOL method to a wider audience, specially Brazil which is in dear need of a positive cultural transformation movement.
2.       I wanted to help the Portuguese-speaking community to better engage their emotions, having the guides in their mother-language when they are going through their WOL journey.
3.       I wanted to experience cross-company collaboration and to get to know amazing, engaged people from other companies to reach something together.
I would like to thank Tiago for the organization of the group and all the participants for the TOP engagement! It was fun, let us continue our cooperation! On an individual level our resources maybe limited, but together we can move mountains!!”

Though these people are working in very different environments, they share two things in common: their love for Brazil and their generosity. Danilo told me, "I fully agree with Tiago when he says that it will be very useful for Brazilians, assisting us to have one organized tool for development. Let's make it happen.”

When Tiago sent me the guides, he said, “I feel very good working for something that will help a lot of people to develop themselves and connect to a new world of possibilities. WOL captured in us this sense of how we feel good in being generous.”

Generous indeed! I am extremely grateful to this wonderful group of people for their tremendous contribution. I hope these guides help spark a WOL movement in Brazil and beyond, and that I get to thank each of the translators in person someday.

Ademir de Souza

Caroline Bremberger

Daniella Cunha Teichert

Danilo Diniz Cintra

Fabrício de Almeida Mozer

Gleyce Kastl Lima

Isabel Duarte

João Senise

Patricia Coelho dos Santos Nascimento

Sergio Scabar

Tiago Caldas

When it’s not a contribution

I don’t mean to judge you. If you recognize an item on this list as something you do, perhaps you have good intentions. Perhaps, contrary to my opinion, it is helpful to someone. Perhaps you simply do it without thinking.

All of these are things I’ve done myself, and yet they make me cringe now. I share this list in the hope that you’ll find it helpful and avoid the mistakes I’ve made. 

A partial list

I often tell people to “frame it as a contribution,” by which I mean the things you share should be be helpful to someone in some way. Here are ten of the more egregious ways I failed to follow my own advice.

Automated contributions -  You signed up for some on-line service and it starts spewing out how many people followed you on Twitter, that you Liked a particular video, or that you achieved a new level on a game few have heard of.

Impersonal contributions #1 - You hit a button to connect with someone and offer no explanation as to who you are, why you want to connect, or how the other person might benefit. 

Impersonal contributions #2 - You hit a button to share the latest news or blog post without adding why you’re sharing it or why others might care.

Complaints - You come across something that irritates you and you share it, amplifying your discontent in exchange for a feeling of validation that may come from others agreeing with you. 

Burdens #1 - You introduce people to each other via email without asking them first, thus forcing them to follow up or risk the embarrassment of seeming unresponsive. 

Burdens #2 - You send lengthy emails with requests hidden deep inside them, or  share lengthy articles without explanation.

Burdens #3 - You ask people you barely know vague questions via email or text - "How are you?" - that are just crude disguises to lure them into a conversation. 

Burdens #4 - You overwhelm someone with “helpfulness,” sharing a wild array of things - links, videos, articles, comments, feedback - that they didn’t ask for and can’t possibly keep up with. 

Purpose-less contributions - Your posts of food or cats or kids are too frequent (unless you’re in a food or cat or kid community).

Narcissism - Me, me, me, me. While sharing something you’ve done can be genuinely helpful, talking only about you and your accomplishments verges on narcissistic and creepy. 

I could go on, but you get the point. The theme throughout this list is that you make such mistakes when don’t listen. You think of sharing as a megaphone, amplifying who you are but at the expense of being sensitive to the people around you. Or, worse, you don’t think at all. Like the irritated driver honking in traffic, you see something and offer something without a thought as to how the other person might receive it.

The one technique you need

The trick to “framing it as a contribution” is to know that “helpful” is in the eye of the recipient. So to be genuinely helpful, you need to reflect and practice empathy, to put yourself in the position of the other person. 

Who might find this helpful? 

Why should they? 

How might I feel if I received this?

What’s my real motivation in sharing this?

Working Out Loud Circles make it easy to practice this. Week after week, you get the chance to make a wide range of contributions - from appreciation to visible work to vulnerability - with genuine generosity and empathy until it becomes a habit and a mindset. 

Over time, you develop a short pause before you send something, a tiny moment of reflection that can make a fundamental difference in what you share and how it’s received. It takes practice, but it’s worth it.

If it feels like you’re trying to get something in return

He felt uneasy about Working Out Loud. After a few weeks in a WOL Circle at work, he felt like he was trying to win people over by doing something for them, and it seemed wrong. So he posted his concern on his company’s intranet, along with a question.

“My understanding of Working Out Loud is that I should contribute and ‘do good’ without the idea of getting things in return….On the other hand, I consciously create a relationship list where I collect the names of certain people who can help me with achieving my personal goal. Then I specifically target them with my ‘contribution’ - attention, support, whatever it may be. Effectively, I am trying to get their support by doing them favors.
What am I missing?”
If it feels wrong.jpg

Some responses

His colleagues responded with their own opinions and experiences, and the person managing the community shared the discussion with me. Some responded that they don’t expect anything in return from a particular individual, and yet believed that, across their entire network, there would naturally be a benefit to them. Others shared how the listing of names helped them to go far beyond the individuals they already knew in a purposeful way, and gave them access to learning they didn’t have before. One woman said she didn’t see it as currying favor with people but rather  “improving the odds” or “creating one’s luck.”

Everyone agreed that intention mattered, that the core principle was to offer things without expectations. I had the chance to send in my own reply.

"If WOL ever feels like you're ‘targeting’ people or trying to manipulate them into reciprocating, you should stop. That's not the intention nor is it a healthy, sustainable practice.
Think of your relationship list not as a set of targets but as people who can help you explore. You're not doing something TO them but rather being OPEN TO them, to their work and ideas and more. 
Each person is like a door. The greater the sense of trust and relatedness, the more that door may open, giving both of you greater access to each other's knowledge, resources, and other people. Now, if a particular door never opens, if a person never responds or you never develop any sense of relatedness, that's okay. Your contributions, if offered in a positive, empathetic way without expectations, can still benefit them (in ways you may never know). As you contribute to more people on your list, you simply increase the chances that you'll develop genuine trust & relatedness with some of them.”

And another question…

As the discussion unfolded, the topic shifted to the relationship list. After all, he wondered, if you’re offering things without expectations, why do you need a list? I replied, “If the relationship list makes the practice feel artificial, don’t use it.” 

The reason I put the relationship list in Week 1 of a Circle is because it helps you attune your attention, opening you up to people (and thus ideas, resources, and more) related to your goal. Right from the beginning, that simple act can help you see things you may have never noticed before. But if I’ve been working on a goal for a long time, or if I find the list to be a barrier of some kind, I may stop maintaining it. 

A practice like any other

Though there is a reason for each of the exercises in a WOL Circle, what’s more important is whether or not you find the exercise to be helpful. I added:

“You can think of your initial relationship list as “scaffolding” that helps you set up your practice. Eventually, you may no longer need it if you feel your practice can stand on its own.”

And that’s true for much of Working Out Loud. Like any practice, there are guides and traditions and even rules, but those are really just meant to help you get started. There is no one right way. Rather, the best practice is the one that’s right for you at a particular time, one you discover and adapt through practice, feedback, and...questions.

Which seeds will you water?

Working in big companies, I’ve had the opportunity to see a wide range of human behavior, and it can be disheartening. Not only the big systemic injustices, like unfair performance management systems or abuses of power, but the personal, day-to-day exchanges between people.

Sometimes it’s the language we use. Where I’ve worked, it was routine to label entire divisions of our own company as “morons” (and much worse). Emails were often so threatening and mean-spirited that merely preparing to look at your inbox would evoke a stress response. 

Sometimes it’s a feeling you get when you walk down the hall or step into an elevator. In one location I visited for lunch, I said thank you to the woman clearing the trays and was told, “People don’t do that here.”

Sometimes, it’s how people from different jobs (titles, divisions, locations) relate to each other in person. I heard an executive tell someone they wouldn’t connect with them on LinkedIn because they were of too low a status, and their more important connections might notice. 

When you see these kinds of behavior, or experience it yourself, what do you do?

I used to get angry and frustrated. I would be quick to identify the villain - the bad boss, the sender of the nasty email - and blame them for my unhappiness at work. But after thirty years of working in corporations, I realized there is a never-ending supply of villains, bad behavior, and potential unhappiness.

Lately, I’m trying to respond differently. I ask myself, “Which seeds will you water?”

It’s a simple metaphor I found in the writings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and the question has been helpful in determining where I put my energy.

“In the depth of our consciousness, there are all kinds of positive and negative seeds - seeds of anger, delusion and fear, and seeds of understanding, compassion, and forgiveness. Many of these seeds have been transmitted to use by our ancestors. We should learn to recognize every one of these seeds in us in order to practice diligence…The practice is to refrain from watering the negative seeds…and recognizing the best seeds in others and watering them.”

When something negative comes up, I have a choice. I can nurture my anger and indignation. Maybe I even spread the story so I can shame the villain while infecting more people with negative feelings. Or I can recognize that, if I look, I can find many more examples of behavior worth celebrating, I can also choose to lead with my own positive examples, practicing the kind of empathy and generosity I wish to see in the workplace.

This doesn’t mean I have to ignore bad behavior entirely, or never act on it. I just don’t have to strengthen it.

The older I get, the less I think of the workplace as being comprised of good people and bad people. Instead, we’re all just people, each with our own stories and struggles, our own good and bad seeds.

Which seeds will you water?

Learning how to give

Despite writing (some might say preaching) about the importance of generosity in building relationships, I’m still learning how to give. A recent interview with the Pope made me realize how much more I need to practice. He was talking about giving to the homeless.

“He said the way of giving is as important as the gift. You should not simply drop a bill into a cup and walk away. You must stop, look the person in the eyes, and touch his or her hands. The reason is to preserve dignity, to see another person not as a pathology or a social condition, but as a human, with a life whose value is equal to your own.”

I had written about homelessness before, and about my own need to develop compassion instead of pity, detachment, or whatever else you might feel when you pass someone who is suffering.

A few months later, I was walking home after one of my worst experiences in recent memory. I was in something of a daze, replaying the events in my mind, when I noticed a homeless woman out of the corner of my eye. It was cold. She was sitting on the sidewalk, wrapped in a blanket, surrounded by a shopping cart full of things and several bags. I turned around and walked back towards her. I took a Kind bar (of all things) out of my bag that I normally carry as a snack, and asked, “Would you like this? I like them very much.”

She looked me in the eye and smiled a slow, beautiful smile. “No thank you," she said. "I’m okay.”.

I wished her well, turned, and kept walking. My eyes teared up. How could she be okay? It was cold and she was on the street! How could I not be okay, when I was healthy and returning to my home and family?

That moment taught me that giving doesn’t have to be one-sided. It can be an exchange. For the offer of a bit of food, I got perspective, a lesson in giving without judgment or expectation, and a glimpse of our interconnectedness and shared humanity.

Whenever I have something to give, whether it's a compliment to a colleague or food to someone in need, I think of that woman on the street. And I carry Kind bars with me ever since. 

 

 

 

Julia’s story: “Payback is unpredictable and so is the currency.”

Julia Flug works in a large company, where she cares about her career and getting better at it. She also has talents, interests, and aspirations that go well beyond her job. 

She first came across Working Out Loud because of simple curiosity. It eventually led to translating the Circle Guides into German, a new role on an important project, and a set of skills and habits she’s continuing to practice in her work and life. None of that was planned, but as she writes about her contributions to others: "Payback is unpredictable and so is the currency."

Here, in her own words, is her WOL story.

***

By Julia Flug

I had been away from work for a while and on my first day back I was browsing through our Enterprise Social Network (ESN), curious to see what was new. And there it was: A community called “Working Out Loud.” Even though I only had a vague idea what might be in it, I was struck right away by the name and I took a deep dive into it. There was the book, the guidelines and even a list where to sign up to build a circle, all with the goal to follow you passion, making it visible and getting connected with others around the same field of interest.

That sounded so great and I started reading the book right away. It felt like one big revelation: A method how to connect with others without having to come up with ingenious small talk. To become visible without selling yourself. A method to learn and to be okay with not having to know it all. A powerful tool of how to start a movement. Keep the change small - that was what I needed, where I had failed so often before! And for the huge fan of tools and methods inside of me the systematic approach was the icing on the cake.

My twitter account was orphaned for more than a year when I decided to send my first tweet. Not “knowing” anybody on Twitter, I was very, very happy to have someone who had already promised to tweet back and thus make me feel more comfortable.

This is how I met John, sending some tweets back and forth. I liked his open and funny writing style and felt somehow connected only by reading the book. Vegetarian? Same over here. 10 years of self help books? Wanna have a look at my shelves? Offering to translate the WOL Circle Guides felt so natural.  

Once I had them ready and sent them to John I was scared to become visible. What would happen once they were published - would people criticize my translations? What would they think about me?

The day John announced in a blog post the new translated guides were online made me cringe. Being all of a sudden visible I expected something (negative, of course) to happen.

But it just didn’t. :)

Does that mean the translations are perfect? Probably not. Would they be different if I had to translate them right now? Yes, most probably. Am I still scared of becoming (more) visible? Yes, but the next time it will be easier to deal with it.

When I started my circle, I defined two topics I wanted to learning about and connect with people with the same interest. I expected the internet and social media would be better sources - rather than the ESN.

Even though my focus was outside, I applied many of the things learned in the exercises at work as well without following a defined goal. Results still came. “Hello, the website says you’re responsible for topic x. Is that true?” That’s what an email in my inbox said. It made me feel disrespected, angry and lucky as it helped me to practice empathy. I sent back a nice email. When she answered, her email style hadn’t changed much. I decided to call her. She was distant and I did my best to stay firm on my intention to be empathic.

A few weeks later, I sent out another email to a group of people including her. She didn’t answer first, but immediately called me after I sent out a reminder. It felt like talking to a different person. She had a melodic, cordial voice. Telling me not only about the personal reason why she wouldn’t be able to join an event but also asking about me for how long I had been with the company, at my current job, if I enjoyed the city we’re living in. She was still straightforward but I knew she was sincere.

Maybe it was stress that made her sound so harsh. In the past I might have answered in a similar style, making me feel stressed too. Practicing empathy allows me to keep those negative feelings away and I would probably even call right after receiving such an email.

Apart from that, many other small things happened. In a certain way it surprises me as I planned to try WOL outside the company, but as the steps felt so natural and brought back some habits I already practiced in the past, I just applied them. The difference now is that I feel better prepared, more secure in how to do so. I offered to collaborate with people and didn’t think I had to know better than them, and received great inputs. I could feel our relationships deepen immediately. I also met new people and felt an immediate connection - just because we cared for the same topic. 

I like to think we all have an imaginary karma account where you can pay in with good deeds, not only through commenting, collaborating, and connecting but by picking up that glove that has fallen unseen to the floor, offering your seat in the subway. The same way you should sell for free, you should fill your karma account for free. Payback is unpredictable and so is the currency.

Even though I intentionally wanted to explore my goal outside the company, one payback came from inside as an offer for a project lead on an important project. I also established several promising connections, both inside and outside and I am curious to find out what other paybacks I might have if I keep paying in.

Looking back to my past six months with WOL - would I do it again? The answer can only be yes. I am happy to feel so much better prepared to establish connections, to be part of certain communities, and to have learned about my topics in a way I had never expected. Yet I am still far away from mastering the art of WOL. Given that it is so easy (and fun) and brings marvelous results I will keep practicing in another circle in 2017.

The Appreciation Test

I thought this one would be easy, but I was wrong. Try it for yourself.

Imagine someone just paid you a compliment on something you did, perhaps a presentation at work or something else that evoked a “Nice job!”

What would you do?

  1. Wonder if the person was being sarcastic.
  2. Reject it. “Oh it was nothing.”
  3. Smile awkwardly.
  4. Graciously accept the compliment.

You might think the answer is obvious. But it has taken me decades to get to a comfortable answer, and that’s only after working  through all of the possible responses.

The M&Ms Incident

I was about 5 years old when this happened, maybe younger. It was such a trivial incident and yet it stuck with me.

My mother, older siblings, and I visited a neighbor up the block. Her home seemed so neat and orderly. To my mind they were rich, though it was just a one-bedroom home in the Bronx. The woman had M&Ms in a glass bowl, something extraordinary for me because a) in my house the M&Ms would be devoured immediately, and b) we would inevitably break the glass bowl.

She held the bowl out to me. “Would you like some?” My mother gave me a look and shook her head. Afterwards, she explained (or this is how I remember it), that even if people offered something, I wasn’t supposed to take it. My young mind interpreted it as somehow impolite to accept what was offered. Perhaps the person didn’t really mean it, or I didn’t deserve it, or both.

Of course, it’s nice to receive compliments. And yet, for most of my life, each compliment is like that bowl of M&Ms being offered to me. I look at it awkwardly, wondering whether I’m allowed to accept it.

The Appreciation Test

“You look nice today!”

I much prefer to give compliments than to receive them. “You look nice today!” “What a great outfit!” I thought offering such genuine praise was an unambiguously nice thing to do. One day, though, a woman I knew responded with, “So I don’t look so nice on the other days?”

I never expected that. I guess she focused on the word “today” more than “nice” and interpreted it as a kind of insult. It taught me two lessons: to be more thoughtful of how I offer a compliment, and to realize that other people, like me, may not be comfortable when they get one.

I still offer positive feedback to people, but I try and practice empathy before I do it. How would I receive this if I were them? It makes me more mindful of what I say and how I say it.

How accepting a gift can be a contribution

Last week, I gave a talk at a conference and there were well over a thousand people in the audience. As I walked off stage, I wasn’t sure how it went. I had a sense of how well I did or didn’t do, but now how it was received. Then, some people came up and congratulated me, and over the course of the day different people would come up to me and say something nice about my presentation.

I thought about this appreciation test. My instinct was to respond with disbelief or some other form of rejection. “Really?” “Oh, it wasn’t my best effort.”

This time, though, I practiced just accepting it. Sometimes it was as simple as “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” Sometimes we would start a conversation and exchange contact information, or even get to know each other a bit.

If a person had gone through the trouble of walking up to me to say something nice, then the least I could do in return would be to graciously accept it. Now, instead of responding with my usual self-defenses, I practice reciprocating with my attention, appreciation, and vulnerability. As the write Stephen Donaldson has said, “In accepting the gift, you honor the giver.”

The Generosity Test

Here’s a simple exercise you can do to see if you give things freely or if you give them to get something in return. You might be disturbed by the results.

As you do it, pay close attention to each step in the exercise: the moment you decide to do it, the way you do it, and how you feel after you’ve done it.

Try this today: Hold the door open for someone you don’t know.

After you!

After you!

“After you!”

When I do this exercise, here’s what happens.

  1. I get a good feeling when I decide to open the door. I’m about to do something nice.
  2. I make eye contact with the other person or say something to make sure they see me opening the door for them. After you!
  3. When they thank me, I get another surge of good feeling. If they don’t, however, I get irritated, even angry. How rude!

It took me a while before I recognized that I wasn’t really opening the door for the other person. I was opening it for myself and for those positive emotions I would experience. The person didn’t consent to participate in my little feel-good exercise. For all I know, they could be deep in thought or otherwise not in a frame of mind to appreciate or even notice my gesture.  

Reciprocity

In Robert Cialdini’s oft-cited book, Influence, he writes about how people are wired to reciprocate and how you can use that to influence people to do things. Charities, for example, often include a small token like address labels in their mailed requests for a donation. That triggers a sense of obligation and makes it more likely you'll do something in return.

It works. When offer your own gift, even social media-savvy people like Guy Kawasaki reference Cialdini's work and advise you to "invoke reciprocity":

“When you help someone with something, and they say thank you, say “I know you would do the same for me.” Most people would then be obligated to return the favor at this point.”

But how does that feel? And does it produce sustainable results or does it only work once? After your first batch of free address labels or an overt mention of returning the favor, you get the idea that you’re being manipulated, or that the other person is keeping score.

A better approach to giving

Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn, offers different advice. In his book, The Start-Up of You, he had “a theory of small gifts” and the role they play in building relationships.

“It seems counterintuitive, but the more altruistic your attitude, the more benefits you will gain from the relationship. If you insist on a quid pro quo every time you help others, you will have a much narrower network and a more limited set of opportunities. Conversely, if you set out to help others…simply because you think it’s the right thing to do, you will rapidly reinforce your own reputation and expand your universe of possibilities.”

Small gifts, freely given, are like magic for both parties. For the giver, the contributions feel authentic and genuine because there are no strings attached. It's easier to give because you're not manipulating or promoting, you're being helpful. The receiver, sensing this, isn’t burdened by the weight of an obligation, and the gift no longer feels like an unwanted transaction.

Importantly, when you offer things freely, there is still a benefit. But it isn't on an individual basis - "I did this for you and you'll pay me back." It's over the course of your network. Across the set of relationships in your network, the tendency to reciprocate will yield an aggregate benefit for the person who gives and eliminates the need to keep score.

The Zen of Holding The Door Open

So how would you do on the Generosity Test? What are your true motives in holding the door, and would you be annoyed if you didn't get the response you expected?

If your answers aren't as noble as you'd have liked, that's okay. Offering small gifts freely takes practice. That’s why there are so many contribution exercises in Working Out Loud circles. The repeated practice helps you develop new habits and a new mindset regarding how you make contributions.

The key to real generosity is to be detached from the outcomes. Go ahead and hold the door open without any expectation of a thank you. Make a helpful introduction. Offer some assistance without any mental strings attached.

Your small gifts, freely given over the course of your network, will deepen relationships and unlock access to possibilities.

Practicing Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving Day tomorrow in the US, and some people will invariably point out that we should give thanks every day, not just on the one day reserved for it. They’re right. At work, we don’t even have the one day, so I introduced  “Thank you Thursdays.” a campaign encouraging people to post a short update on our social network to show appreciation. Again, someone asked why we needed to designate a day. “Why can’t we just offer appreciation spontaneously?”

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 6.49.17 AM

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 6.49.17 AM

The answer, of course, is that we can - but we don’t. For most of us, we simply don’t have the habit of offering thanks and showing appreciation as much as we would like to. In How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie described appreciation as something we all “hunger for” and that “all souls enjoy,” and he decried the lack of it in everyday life.

“One of the most neglected virtues of our daily existence is appreciation.”

The good news is that you can develop the habit of offering appreciation with practice.

Try it now. Before you put down your laptop, tablet, or phone, think of at least one person you would like to thank or whose efforts you appreciate. Send a short message by text or email, or post it on Twitter. If you need help, I included simple exercises below from Working Out Loud. If you were in a Working Out Loud circle, this is something you would practice.

Do it now, and see how easy it is and how it makes you feel. When you develop the habit of gratitude, every day is an opportunity to make someone else feel good, to feel better yourself, and to deepen a relationship.

Happy Thanksgiving.

***

Something you can do in less than a minute

Show public appreciation on Twitter for someone’s work. Don’t expect to get a reply, but do it just because it’s a nice thing to do. When someone does reply, it’s an extra bonus. For example, I shared how much I was enjoying the work of Austin Kleon, a bestselling author whose work has influenced me..

Austin Kleon tweet

Austin Kleon tweet

Public feedback isn’t intimate (it’s public, after all), but it’s still a lovely gift. It shows you want others to know someone has done something worth your gratitude. Just make sure the gift is pure and really about the recipient, not about you.

Something you can do in less than 5 minutes

E-mail someone now to say “thank you.” Then send a LinkedIn message to someone else to say “I’ve been thinking of you and hope you’re well.”

These are private messages and thus more personal. Notes like these are simple, universal gifts that anyone would like to receive. You can add other details if you like, but keep these notes to no more than a few sentences.