It’s the little things: 6 simple ways to show you care

Today, a work colleague told me she felt “passed over”. As she shared this with me, I saw in her an honest sadness that I had never seen in her before, as if she hadn’t admitted this feeling to anyone–not even herself. My heart broke for her. The feeling of being unappreciated, invisible is lonely and hard.

Most of us feel this, at some point. I certainly have! We work really hard–sometimes for years–and our work goes unseen. We go unrecognized. And this hurts. After all, our work (paid and nonpaid) in many ways defines us.

Sadly, it takes so little to prevent these feelings–to show appreciation. I’m always surprised at what a huge difference a small gesture or comment makes in my own wellbeing. You know those meetings or moments when mere eye contact with someone else can make you feel in community, that you’re not alone?

My colleague’s comment today got me thinking. How have I felt appreciated? I realize that times I’ve felt most appreciated have been in response to “little things”. I mean, sure promotion and salary increases are great! But really, it’s the little, everyday things that make the biggest difference for me.

I suggest six simple ways to show you care: Inquire. Share a praise. Hold others (and yourself) accountable. Show up. Listen. Seek help.

Inquire. Questions can be a great way to show you care. “How’d the thing go?” “How did you feel about the meeting?” “Are you tired after driving the kids all around the world today?” “What did you mean by that?” Inquiring calls for being present enough to know that there’s something to inquire about and being interested enough to ask. Inquire rather than interrogate, which feels more like micro-managing, and definitely not a way to show appreciation.

Share praise: “Wow, you did a great job on that flyer!” “Thanks for spending so much time on that.” “Thanks for coming, tonight.” “Thanks for asking.”

Hold others (and yourself) accountable: “I’m concerned about you–your work hasn’t been to your own standard lately.” “It seems things are slipping lately.” “Where are you with this?” “You’re not holding up your end of the bargain and as a result, we’re all struggling.” “What’s going on?” Believe it or not, I appreciate being held accountable. It means that someone is paying attention to my work and has expectations for me. I also value when others hold themselves accountable. This says to me that they care enough about our collective work to be honest and respectful: “I screwed up on that.” “I completely forgot to follow up…”

Show up: I mean this literally. And when you can’t, say so.

Listen: Listen when people talk about their work. (This extends to read when others email about their work–yes, actually read email). Pay attention. Our work and our meaning making of it says so much about who we are and our values. So, seek to understand. Simple and unbelievably powerful.

Seek help: When I open myself up to the genius of others, I feel inspired and motivated. I know I can learn a ton from those around me and I readily seek their help. I know when someone asks for my help, I feel appreciated and that others feel I have something to contribute.

It’s the little things. And yet, rare and transformational.

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