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The power of appreciation

Appreciation is the soil on which relationships flourish. It fosters mutual understanding in families, in the workplace, in society.

Relationships aren’t always easy. It is a rare thing another meets our preferences and needs completely. We differ in the ways we communicate, view each other, the world, and culture. We live according to different values and aspire for different goals. There is a lot which makes us different. Appreciation shows that we have even more in common.

Others are hard to calculate and their behavior is often unpredictable. This tends to unsettle us. We much prefer reliability and control. We prefer rules and expectations above the unknown and ever new. In the reactivity towards the unknown is an immense potential for misunderstandings and conflict.

The mind has the tendency to focus towards the difficult, the negative, the problematic. It needs an active balancing to this limiting of our field of vision: appreciation.

To meet others from a perspective of basic appreciation means to open up closed categories. It takes a willingness to perceive more of the other than the small range we usually tend to. Mindfulness supports spotting habitual ways of looking and allows for a broader view.

The capacity to see a human being in its diversity has the potential to open up our hearts. Appreciation arises whenever we are ready to perceive the goodness, the bravery, the patience, the empathy, the respect, and the many other beautiful potentials humans put into action. Can we acknowledge them even when we do not benefit?

Appreciation arises when empathy allows us to inquire into the motivations and intentions of another. What we discover then are the same wishes for security, happiness and peace of mind, which drive our own actions. Just like ourselves, others aspire for the absence of sorrow and suffering.

Can we acknowledge this common denominator? Like ourselves, others consist of a broad accumulation of habits and patterns. How could we limit anyone to a fixed personality and state who the other is at any given moment in time?

Some actions are definitely harmful. Some actions definitely contribute to suffering. Can we state these without turning them into a judgement of worthiness? Basic appreciation allows to integrate an unskillful action in a much broader picture of a being.

Basic appreciation also allows us to meet ourselves with gentle eyes. Can we measure ourselves according to our attentions rather than to our results? Can we acknowledge that it is quite a challenge to meet unhelpful patterns, some of them deeply ingrained in the being, again and again? Compassion for others allows for more compassion for ourselves. And the way, too.

Appreciation nourishes any relationship. It contributes to understanding and community. With strangers. With those who differ in views and opinions. With friends and family. With ourselves.

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