I once succumbed to the fad of fasting and went for
six days and nights without eating. It wasn't
difficult. I was less hungry at the end of the
sixth day than I was at the end of the second.
Yet I know, as you know, people who would think they
had committed a crime if they let their families or
employees go for six days without food; but they
will let them go for six days, and six weeks, and
sometimes sixty years without giving them the hearty
appreciation that they crave almost as much as they
When Alfred Lunt, one of the great actors of his
time, played the lead role in Reunion in Vienna,
he said, "There is nothing I need so much as
nourishment for my self-esteem."
We nourish the bodies of our children and friends
and employees, but how seldom do we nourish their
self-esteem? We provide them with roast beef
and potatoes to build energy, but we neglect to give
them kind words of appreciation that would sing in
their memories for years like the music of the
Paul Harvey, in one of his radio broadcasts,
"The Rest of the Story," told how showing
sincere appreciation can change a person's
life. He reported that years ago a teacher in
Detroit asked Stevie Morris to help her find a mouse
that was lost in the classroom.
You see, she appreciated the fact that nature had given Stevie a
remarkable pair of ears to compensate for his blind eyes.
But this was really the first time Stevie had been shown
appreciation for those talented ears. Now, years later, he
says that this act of appreciation was the beginning of a new
life. You see, from that time on he developed his gift of
hearing and went on to become, under the stage name of Stevie
Wonder, one of the great pop singers and songwriters of the
Some readers are saying right now as they read these lines,
"Oh, phooey! Flattery! Bear oil!
I've tried that stuff. It doesn't work--not with
Of course flattery seldom works with discerning people. It
is shallow, selfish and insincere. It ought to fail and it
usually does. True, some people are so hungry, so thirsty
for appreciation that they will swallow anything, just as a
starving man will eat grass and fishworms. . . . In the long
run, though, flattery will do you more harm than good.
Flattery is counterfeit, and like counterfeit money, it will
eventually get you into trouble if you pass it to someone else.
The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is
simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One
comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out.
One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally
admired; the other universally condemned.
I recently saw a bust of Mexican hero General Alvaro Obregon in
the Chapultepec palace in Mexico City. Below the bust are
carved these wise words from General Obregon's philosophy:
"Don't be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid
of the friends who flatter you."
I am not suggesting flattery! Far from it. I'm
talking about a new way of life. Let me repeat. I
am talking about a new way of life.
If all we had to do was flatter, everybody would catch on
and we should all be experts in human relations.
When we are not engaged in thinking about some definite problem,
we usually spend about 95 percent of our time thinking about
ourselves. Now, if we stop thinking about ourselves for a
while and begin to think of the other person's good points, we
won't have to resort to flattery so cheap and false that it can
be spotted almost before it is out of the mouth.
One of the most neglected virtues of our daily existence is
appreciation. Somehow, we neglect to praise our son or
daughter when he or she brings home a good report card, and we
fail to encourage our children when they first succeed in baking
a cake or building a birdhouse. Nothing pleases children
more than this kind of parental interest and approval.
The next time you enjoy a meal at a restaurant, send word to the
chef that it was excellently prepared, and when a tired
salesperson shows you unusual courtesy, please mention it.
Every minister, lecturer, and public speaker knows the
discouragement of pouring himself or herself out to an audience
and not receiving a single ripple of appreciative comment.
What applies to professionals applies doubly to workers in
offices, shops and factories and our families and friends.
In our interpersonal relations we should never forget that all
our associates are human beings and hunger for
appreciation. It is the legal tender that all souls enjoy.
Try leaving a friendly trail of little sparks of gratitude on
your daily trips. You will be surprised how they will set
small flames of friendship that will be rose beacons on your
Pamela Dunham of New Fairfield, Connecticut, had among her
responsibilities on her job the supervision of a janitor who was
doing a very poor job. The other employees would jeer at
him and litter the hallways to show him what a bad job he was
doing. It was so bad, productive time was being lost in
Without success, Pam tried various ways to motivate this
person. She noticed that occasionally he did a
particularly good piece of work. She made a point to
praise him for it in front of the other people. Each day
the job he did all around got better, and pretty soon he started
doing all his work efficiently. Now he does an excellent
job and other people give him appreciation and
recognition. Honest appreciation got results where
criticism and ridicule failed.
Hurting people not only does not change them, it is never called
for. There is an old saying that I have cut out and pasted
on my mirror where I cannot help but see it every day:
I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can
do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do
it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not
pass this way again.
Emerson said: "Every person I meet is my superior in
some way. In that, I learn of them."
If that was true of Emerson, isn't it likely to be a thousand
times more true of you and me? Let's cease thinking of our
accomplishments, our wants. Let's try to figure our the
other person's good points. Then forget flattery.
Give honest, sincere appreciation. Be "hearty in your
approbation and lavish in your praise," and people will
cherish your words and treasure them and repeat them over a
lifetime--repeat them years after you have forgotten them.