06/11/2009 11:04 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

5 Ways To Give The Gift Of Appreciation

Every year, I look forward to the Oscars. I like learning about the latest fashions, keeping up with the stars' ever-changing pairings (and uncouplings) and dishing the dirt about who did and did not give a great speech. All of this is in the service of fun and good old-fashioned entertainment. But what I never expected from an evening at the Academy Awards was an exquisite example of appreciation in action -- but that's just what I got a few weeks ago.

Whoever had the stroke of genius to have five previous winners from the categories of Best Supporting Actor and Actress and Best Actor and Actress stand on stage and present a one-on-one acknowledgment to the nominees in their category deserves a standing ovation themselves.

Both the way the recognition was given and the way it was received was moving. From iconic Shirley Maclaine's authentic appreciation of Anne Hathaway's singing voice (who knew she had that Broadway sound?) to the impenetrable Robert De Niro's light-hearted teasing of macho man Sean Penn, we, the audience, got to see a rare display of a private and intimate moment of recognition, played out in a very public forum.

But instead of feeling like a voyeur, on the outside looking in, these appreciations make us feel like part of the process. This is the power of true recognition -- it has a universal quality. You don't need to be Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin or Mickey Rourke to feel the impact that real acknowledgment has, and while you may have to deliver your appreciations sans designer ball gowns and glittery jewels, they can none the less sparkle with heartfelt authenticity. Here are five ways to give the gift of appreciation.

1. Be specific. Instead of simply saying, "Well done," take the time to notice what, in particular, was noteworthy. Adding specifics always strengthens a compliment. Some good compliment starters include:

•You did a wonderful job with...
•I have great admiration for...
•I am grateful for...
•I really appreciate your...

2. Make it about character. Perhaps the most memorable compliment is the one that recognizes who the other person is, rather than what they do. To make a specific compliment even more meaningful, include recognition of the other person's character. Some good character compliments examples include:

•You have a way with words.
•It's obvious that you know what you are doing.
•You are a good listener.
•You are funny.

3. Drop a line; draft a note. If you really want someone to feel the full weight of your compliment, put it in writing as well. A good old-fashioned snail-mail letter or hand-written note shows a special effort on your part to express appreciation. It also gives the person a real-life reminder of your praise.

4. Be sincere. Compliments that mean the most come from people who say what they mean, and mean what they say. You can increase the impact of your compliments by only passing on praise when you sincerely feel it.

5. Turnaround is fair play. If you are lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a compliment, learn to accept it with grace. Many people feel embarrassed when complimented and stumble and stammer in the face of appreciation. Don't. Let the other person have the satisfaction of giving you a sincere compliment. When all else fails, a simple "thank you" will always suffice.


The above were adapted with permission from the book Customer Service In An Instant: 60 Ways to Win Customers and Keep Them Coming Back.

Please note that the information in this article is copyrighted by Karen Leland. If you would like to reprint any of it on your blog or website you are welcome to do so, provided you give credit and a live link back to this posting.

Karen Leland is author of the recently released books Watercooler Wisdom: How Smart People Prosper In the Face of Conflict, Pressure and Change and Time Management In An Instant:60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. She is the co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group. For questions, comments or to book Karen to speak at your next event, please e-mail