What I appreciate, appreciates. ~ Kelly Bryson
The heart that gives, gathers. ~ Tao de Ching
The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated. ~ William James
Starting with Gratitude
One of my favorite NVC teachers, Kit Miller, who is currently the Executive Director of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence shared at one training that she starts all her meetings with gratitude. She said that she asks those present to consider something for which they are grateful and share it with the group. She reported that this routine puts people in an emotional and mental space that contributes to a productive meeting.
I follow a similar process at my initial meetings with relationship coaching and consulting clients. When I invite clients to assess their current state of being in relation to the issues that brought them to me, I request that they first tune into what is working in this state. This is not easy. As humans, we are particularly good at seeing all that’s “wrong” in life especially when what’s “wrong” is triggering displeasurable emotions. After slight resistance, almost all my clients are willing to move into a state of gratitude for all that is working in their current situation. While it might not be a long list, they are able to find something positive in their state. I find that beginning with intentional gratitude-sharing prepares people to move away from their current state toward their ideal.
Burt Gershater, a Flagstaff-based Counselor and Consultant, shared the gratitude ritual he begins his day with at a speech I attended in March of 2017. He said that he lights a candle every morning and expresses a gratitude and he often takes gratitude walks to celebrate aspects of life while moving his body. Learning of his morning ritual prompted me to ask my wife, Katie, to add time to express gratitudes when we connect in the morning. Now we do!
Gratitude is definitely a powerful way to start a day, a meeting, or anything else!
Gratitude in 3-Dimensions
Compassionate Communication offers a 3-step, 3-dimensional process to express gratitude in a way that leads to learning. In CC, gratitude is our “external feedback system” that lets us know if our need for contribution to others is met (contrasted with emotions which are our “internal feedback system” letting us know if our needs are met or not). We may have a strong desire to serve and help others and, without hearing whether the other person was “served” or “helped” we don’t know if our desire has been accomplished.
Here’s the three dimensions:
- Observation — The gratitude-giver answers this question: “What did the other person do that triggered your desire to give gratitude?” By tying the gratitude to a specific action, the gratitude-receiver learns what they did that the gratitude-giver enjoyed. Compliments like “That was great,” “Awesome,” “Good job,” “Excellent,” and others fall short on this account leaving the receiver uncertain about the action that is triggering the gratitude.
- Feeling — The giver now connects with their inner feedback system to determine what feeling arises when they consider the action or behavior noted in the first step.
- Need — Feelings are directly connected to needs so, in the third and final step, the giver connects their feeling to a universal need.
Here’s an example:
- Observation. “Katie, when I think of your willingness to spend 30 minutes helping me figure out the melody for my song yesterday…”
- Feeling. “I feel very grateful and satisfied…”
- Need. “Because I am wanting support to make my songs as awesome as possible!”
What a great alternative to a simple, one-dimensional “Thank you.”