Learning how to clearly and effectively communicate can transform the relationships in your life. Although it may seem like the way you interact with your romantic partner or your kids is completely different from the way you would communicate with a team member or co-worker, the truth is, some communication skills are so foundational that they can bring more harmony and ease to any kind of relationship.
Take acknowledgement, for example. This is one of the most seemingly simple, yet powerful communication skills we teach in our certification program.
Gigi has been teaching this skill for over 35 years, and it’s helped everyone from entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives to stay-at-home moms experience more harmony in their personal and professional relationships.
So whether you want to heal your family dynamic or help your business run more smoothly, this article is for you.
Acknowledgement brings awareness to the things people do that add to your life. Often, we THINK about these things, but we don’t say them.
When you use acknowledgement, it creates a deeper connection and inspires people to do more of what works.
This tool is almost deceptively simple. Often when we first introduce it to our clients, they think they already do it, or that something so small can’t be a big deal. But there is a subtlety to acknowledgment that gets to the heart of the way people are wired and creates a dynamic of cooperation and ease. When used correctly, acknowledgment makes people feel seen, appreciated, and motivated to do their best.
Acknowledgement can sound a lot like praise or compliments, but there are a couple of subtle distinctions that make all of the difference.
Let’s explore those distinctions:
Distinction #1: Acknowledgment focuses on something the person DID – an action that made a contribution or added value in some way. It’s not about who they are or what personality traits they have, it focuses specifically on an action.
Distinction #2: When you acknowledge someone, you tell them not only what they did, but also WHY it impacted you. This is so much more powerful than a compliment! Here’s an example…
- Compliment: “You’re a great cook honey.”
- Acknowledgement: “When you made dinner for me yesterday, I felt so loved and cared for. I’d had a really long day, so that made a huge difference for me. Thank you!”
Distinction #3: Acknowledgement is SPECIFIC. Here’s another example…
- Non-Specific: “Thank you for being such a great co-worker.”
- Specific: “When you had that report on my desk before I even asked for it, it made my job so much easier – and helped me feel much more relaxed heading into my presentation.”
Distinction #4: Acknowledgment has to be SINCERE. People can feel the difference in praise for the sake of praise, versus your genuine appreciation. Think of things to acknowledge that truly made an impact for you.
In order to demonstrate how you can use this skill in different parts of your life, I want to tell you a story about one of our clients…
George had recently sold his company and was helping the buyers transition into running things. He was going into the office on a daily basis to train, set up systems, and help the team adjust.
The problem was, the employees were not happy with the change and they had a lot of resistance. Each day when George went into work, there were breakdowns happening and no one wanted to do what he asked.
When he shared the struggle he was having with us, Gigi coached him to use the skill of acknowledgment. She told him that rather than telling the team what to do and what wasn’t working, he should lead by telling them what they were already doing well and the positive impact that had.
As he focused on what was working, trust began to build between George and the team. Not only did they feel appreciated and seen, but his perspective also began to change as he observed more and more of what was working.
Over the days & weeks that followed, a new dynamic began to develop in the office. When George needed to make requests or give feedback, the team was more open and receptive to listening. As a result, the remainder of his transition out of the company became smooth and easy.
Another one of our clients used this tool in her marriage…
Amelia was frustrated because she wanted her husband Trevor to help more around the house and with the kids. Yet, any time she asked him for support, he became grumpy and resistant.
We coached Amelia to use acknowledgment to start pointing out the places where her husband was already supporting her. She started letting him know how helpful it was when he spent time with their kids, and how supported she felt when he did things around the house.
After doing this for a little while, her husband began to feel more appreciated, and he naturally became more willing to help. Having built this trust with him, Amelia was able to find space to ask him to support her in a few specific ways that really mattered to her.
Instead of complaining and telling him all the ways he wasn’t doing enough – she acknowledged him first, and then asked if he would be willing to help.
With this change in their dynamic, Trevor was very open to the conversation and said he would love to support her in those areas. Amelia saw a profound shift with her husband in a short amount of time just by using this one simple tool.
They even decided to set up a weekly “team meeting” where they each got the chance to share something they had done that week that they wanted to be acknowledged for. Then – as we teach our students & clients to do – they both clapped for each other after each acknowledgement!
Acknowledgement can be used in ALL areas of your life. Whether it’s with your children, a difficult boss, your spouse, or your team – acknowledgment creates more cooperative systems.
The beauty of this communication tool is that it helps build trust and deepen connection. People are wired to respond better to positive reinforcement. So often we worry that if we don’t tell people what they are doing wrong they’ll never change, but in reality, people are more likely to make shifts when they get attention for the actions and behaviors we DO want from them.
This shifts the focus onto the positive and it opens up a space where you can make requests when you really need to. In most cases though, change naturally starts to happen simply by acknowledging what’s already working.
We train all of the coaches & leaders who work with us to use this tool in all areas of their lives – from business to personal relationships.
Even if it sounds too simple to have such a profound impact, we invite you to try this tool out in your life for 30 days, and notice what changes!
If you’re curious to learn more about acknowledgement and other communication tools to transform your career & relationships, click here to apply for our certification program for coaches, leaders & world changers.