Last weekend I returned to St. Catherine University for my class reunion. I was thrilled to see Julie Beckel Nelson, assistant professor of business administration, giving a talk on influence.

It definitely was a case of “if I’d only known then what I know now.” Plus gratitude that these ideas and skills were making their way to undergraduates.

We all know how good it feels to be truly seen and recognized by someone—and how that builds rapport.

But sometimes we can use a little help on what to notice and share.

Maybe it’s a performance appraisal interview of someone you’ve worked with for years. Or a new business prospect with whom you’re trying to build a relationship. Or a director who always seems to focus on perceived or actual negatives.

Character Appreciation

Nelson shared two lists, courtesy of the Gallup StrengthFinder. Here are some characteristics you can notice about the person and highlight to reward or show goodwill.

  • Grit: courage, resolve, perseverance and passion for long-term goals
  • Optimism: full of hope and emphasizing the good parts of a situation, or a belief that something positive will happen
  • Zest: approaching life with excitement and energy—not doing things halfway or halfheartedly
  • Self-Control: the ability to control emotions and desires or how these are expressed, especially in difficult situations
  • Gratitude: readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness
  • Curiosity: interested in asking questions and learning more about anything and everything; enjoying exploration and discovery
  • Social Intelligence: in touch with their own values, motivations and limitations; able to connect with others by being aware of their motivations and feelings

Strength Appreciation

Gallup created four general strengths and provided a list of qualities found in each. People obviously can have behaviors or mindsets that come from more than one category.

  • Executing: people who make things happen—achiever, arranger, belief, consistency, deliberative, discipline, focus, responsibility, restorative
  • Influencing: people who know how to take charge, speak up and make sure the team is heard—activator, command, communication, competition, maximizer, self-assurance, significance, winning others over
  • Relationship Building: people who create relationships that hold the team together and make it more than the sum of its parts—adaptability, connectedness, developer, empathy, harmony, includer, individualization, positivity, relator
  • Strategic Thinking: people who absorb and analyze information to help teams make better decisions—analytical, context, futuristic, ideation, input, intellection, learner, strategic

Looking Hard to Appreciate Someone

At the reunion, many of us shared stories about a particularly prickly professor: Sister Esperance Wittry.

I remembered my first day in freshman biology. Sister Esperance informed us that we were an undifferentiated mass and not worthy of her attention because we weren’t sufficiently developed as people.  My reaction: “I’m paying tuition to have her insult me?” Many others had a similar experience.

Then one woman mentioned a day when she saw some litter on the quad and picked it up. Sister Esperance was walking past, smiled and thanked her: even though my classmate was a freshman.

We paused for a moment and realized that Sister Esperance could express gratitude. That made her less of a cartoon character and more of a human being in our memories.

Look at your people through a lens of appreciation. You’ll find it reduces the chances you’ll be judgmental and jump to conclusions—and that appreciation is a mood that can be contagious.

Need some ideas to find more ways to appreciate your people? Let’s talk.