Appreciation: The Most Powerful Gift!

This is a follow-up  from my Birthplace of Stigma post. Etymology aside, I’d like to focus on a timeless principle that Dale Carnegie presented in his book, How to Win Friends & Influence People:

“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.”

Carnegie drew particular attention to the verb “craving”, noting that one does not just ‘hope’ or ‘desire’ to be appreciated, rather, they crave to be appreciated. Oxford English dictionary defines “crave” as: (to) “feel a powerful desire for (something).”

To demonstrate the magnitude of this particular principle, imagine yourself at home eating dinner. After shovelling in a few forkfuls of spaghetti, you reach for – you desire – a drink of water. Now imagine yourself stranded in the desert (not sure how you got there, but you’re there!) and you have three days to find water before your internal organs shut down and you, well, die! If you haven’t found water by day two, you will have developed a ‘powerful desire’ – a craving – for it, to say the least.

At the surface, it seems like an obvious point: everyone wants to feel appreciated – makes sense! But that is not the takeaway when learning to effectively deal with people. It’s recognizing that people crave appreciation. People need appreciation. They have to have it so they don’t die of thirst, mentally (so to speak!).

So the implication is that when a person is perceivably denied their craving for appreciation, it adversely affects their mental well-being.  This is because of its direct link to the (neurovegetative) symptom of depression called worthlessness. The Oxford Dictionary definition for “appreciate”: “Recognize the full worth of.” When you feel appreciated, you feel valued or self-worth. When you do not feel appreciated, you feel opposing emotions – like worthlessness.

All too often, we are prone to criticize others. Carnegie states, “Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” Consider the Oxford definition of “criticize”: “Indicate the faults of (someone or something) in a disapproving way.” The term “disparage” is synonymous with criticize, and is defined as: “Regard or represent as being of little worth.” All this to say is that when we criticize, we pull people down – that is, by faulting them, we directly jeopardize their sense of self-worth and deprive them of the one thing they crave: appreciation.

Chronic deprivation of appreciation in one’s life feeds the beast called worthlessness – a potent depressive symptom. I believe that by consciously recognizing the magnitude of importance with respect to this deep, human principle – this craving for appreciation – it can serve as a focal point for some incredible leverage when interacting with people.

With this principle at the forefront of our minds, recognize that by a single expression of appreciation, you will satisfy this innate craving (albeit, temporarily) and ignite in another human being, a surge of self-worth. This, by logic, weakens the gravitational pull of depressive symptoms (specifically, worthlessness).

Perhaps even more fulfilling is that, in return, you stand to elevate your character as a sincere source of inspiration in the eyes of another person. So when positioned at the fork in the road where you must choose between criticism and appreciation, recognize that the greatest asset you possess is your ability to bring out the best in a person by gifting them appreciation and encouragement – gifts that everyone has an abundance of.