1) Use Your Relationship GPS: Many of us have GPS navigation in our cars or on our phones to keep us from getting lost. However, whenever we find ourselves lost in our relationships or lost in our ability to appreciate people around us, we can use "Acknowledgment GPS." In this case, GPS stands for "genuine, personal and specific." Whenever we acknowledge someone, we want it to be genuine, to come from our heart and mean what we say. We also want it to be personal, to appreciate something about them and leave them feeling appreciated. Lastly, we want it to be specific, to identify a specific quality they have, or something that they've done, and describe how it specifically impacts us or makes our life better.
2) Clear Your "Withholds": A withhold is a hurt or resentment you've been holding onto regarding another person, yet you haven't shared it with them. This can happen with anyone in your life—a spouse, friend, family member or co-worker. To clear your withhold, one person says to the other person, "There's something I've withheld from you." The other person responds by saying, "Okay, would you like to tell me?" Then the first person expresses their "withhold" with as much honesty, vulnerability and responsibility as possible (i.e. using "I" statements, owning their feelings, etc.). The other person's job is to listen with as much openness as possible, not to react and to say "thank you" when the first person is done. It's best to do this back and forth until both people have shared all of their withholds with each other. When you're done, one or both of you may want to talk about some of the things that were said, but that isn't always necessary. This is not about debate or someone being right or wrong. This is about being able to share how you're feeling and releasing it, as well as giving the other person some important feedback in the process.
3) Ask For What You Want: It's essential that we ask people in our lives for the specific kind of appreciation and feedback that we want from them, and how we like to receive it. The clearer we are about what we want from the people around us, and the more willing we are to find out what they want, the more likely we are to have authentic and mutually beneficial relationships. I've gotten myself into trouble when I assume to know how people want to be acknowledged or what works for them in terms of receiving feedback. Not everyone is like us, as hard as that is for some of us to realize, so we have to negotiate this personally and specifically in each relationship so that we can honor people's needs, desires and personalities.
Have fun with this and be kind to yourself and others as you engage in this process of being a real fan and a conscious critic. While this is an essential aspect of deepening and enhancing our relationships, it is also something that most of us truly want, even if it may make us a little uncomfortable. It can be tricky and scary for most of us, so just be aware of this dynamic and have compassion for yourself and those around you.
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many others.
Where in your life and relationships could you deepen your ability to be a fan and/or a critic of someone important, for the purpose of their personal development? Share your thoughts, action ideas, insights and more below.