The Power of Acknowledgment

by Devora Krasnianski, founder of Adai Ad Institute

People have an intrinsic need to be appreciated. For who they are. Not only for what they do. Compliments are nice. An ‘acknowledgment’ of who they are can go so much further.

Understanding the nuances of an effective acknowledgment is a wonderful tool to have for your marriage and all other relationships. In this time before your marriage, practice acknowledging others. At first it may seem awkward, just do it! You’ll get better. Especially when you see how much your acknowledgment of who they really are means to the other person. 

An expression of acknowledgment goes beyond the person’s action. It recognizes the person and her qualities and inner character that enabled her to do what she did. It’s a statement of “I see who you are!”

It’s not about what someone has done, but rather who she was when she performed that way. Acknowledgment is not a thank you. There’s a big difference: “Thank for making 30 cakes this week.” vs. “Your dedication to our family is so inspiring!” An acknowledgment says that we see who she is, and we have benefited from her, not only from her actions.

Some tips:

  • Keep your acknowledgment succinct and clear; shorter statements have greater impact.
  • And from the heart; your tone and context will reflect your sentiments.
  • Some qualities to look for are: concern, patience, dedication, commitment, perseverance, caring, thoughtfulness, creativity, initiative, enthusiasm, clear communication, or wisdom. “Your creativity really added a special final touch to this project.”, “The personal attention you gave to this project inspired others to also participate more fully.”
  • Acknowledge the process:  working through the ups and downs, persevering despite the obstacles. “It’s tough now, but your perseverance and determination are what is pulling everyone through this.”

Some examples of acknowledgment statements:

Notice that they are not expressions of gratitude; rather they address a wonderful part of the person’s character.

  • “Did I ever tell you that your creativity inspires me?”
  • “I feel so calm when I am around you.”
  • “Knowing I can count on you makes all the difference in the world.”
  • “There’s no doubt to me that you want us to be successful in this new community.”
  • “Your support made it possible for me to take on this new project.”

If you can’t easily find something to acknowledge, look harder. At the very least, acknowledge her good intentions. “I know you really care about the family.” This might help her remember that this is true about her, and might get her back on track. Many people need this acknowledgment most when they are struggling.

Some more important points:

  • The acknowledgement should stand on its own. Don’t sandwich in a ‘but’ or a weakness. It will negate the acknowledgment and make it feel like manipulation. “You are so creative and you make these incredible creations. But the mess you leave afterward is awful. We’re really lucky to have your creations.” And don’t state a request right after. “You’re so creative. Can you please make one of your creations for us tomorrow?”
  • Acknowledge often, even daily. Rarely given acknowledgments have no more value than frequent ones. Sincere praise should not be withheld due to fear of diminishing returns, of appearing inappropriate or out of embarrassment. Those obstacles can and should be overcome in order for you and your recipients to reap the tremendous rewards.
  • Determine how and when and where the acknowledgment should be given. Will it be best if done in private or in front of others? Spontaneous or later? The context is very important in how the recipient will actually accept your words. Many people are uncomfortable with acknowledgment.
  • Reflect about how the other is taking in the acknowledgments. For many people, it is uncomfortable to hear something so personal. And they might deflect it. If someone has difficulty receiving, stay with them and let them know it is sincere. Pause and be present and say something like, “I really mean it”.
  • Make sure it is authentic and sincere, and not a form of manipulation, or as a motivator masquerading in the words of an acknowledgment. People pick up on insincerity and it will likely have negative ramifications.

And don’t forget to acknowledge yourself – for your intentions, for your process, for your contributions to the success of your life and family! You, as a human, will benefit from acknowledgment too.

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