But not one in ten of us gets enough appreciation. A common reaction to this fact is that bosses and spouses should pay more attention; they should notice and then appreciate us. The problem is, it is hard to notice the absence of a negative condition. When you don’t create problems and do your work well, and you allow other people to do their jobs unhindered, what is there to notice? Your good job becomes business as usual.
The juxtaposition of those two facts — everyone needs acknowledgment and it is hard to notice the absence of a negative condition — presents us with but one solution: You must elicit your own acknowledgment. You must point out your efforts to others when they don’t notice.
But you can’t do that! It’s called bragging. And we’ve all met obnoxious, self-centered, boorish people who had a habit of talking about themselves and what they’ve accomplished. Bragging is offensive. Isn’t it?
Yes it is — when it is done by obnoxious, self-centered people. When it is done by someone who simply wants to do a good job and stay motivated, eliciting acknowledgment can be a positive thing for everyone involved.
It might go something like this: You’ve been particularly careful about doing a certain thing, and you have been doing it consistently. You know this thing you’re doing really helps out. You know things are working a lot better because you’re putting in the time and effort to do this thing well. But since it helps everything go well, and since it is so difficult to notice an absence of a negative condition, no one notices you’re doing such a good job. So when your spouse or boss is nearby, say to them, “I’ve been working very hard to make sure this thing goes right, and it’s been going right. I just wanted someone to know.”
Since we are all in the same boat, the person you’re talking to will understand the feeling of simply wanting someone else to know, and you might even open up the possibility for him or her to do the same thing (elicit acknowledgment).
You don’t have to force anything. You don’t have to brag and swagger and say it over and over all the time until you brighten up the room every time you leave. You don’t need to come from deficiency. You aren’t desperate for attention. You’re just helping yourself feel a little better about your work (and motivating yourself to keep it up) by letting someone know what you’re doing.
Don’t expect a lot. Some people will think it’s strange that you pointed out your own good work. Some people will think you’re bragging. Keep paying attention to the kinds of responses you get and keep modifying what you’re doing until it is a simple acknowledgment of the facts. Also, get people to talk about what they are doing that they want someone to know about and then give them some acknowledgment for it. They will not only become more willing to acknowledge you for your accomplishments, but they will also be less likely to feel jealous when you point out something you did.
Elicit your own acknowledgment. It’s better than grumbling that no one notices. It’s not anyone’s fault that no one notices. Because of the way our bodies, brains and the universe is constructed, it is just that way. Not much we can do about it but use it. You can bemoan the fact that gravity keeps you pinned to the Earth or you can accept it and get so good at dealing with it you can dance!
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.