Many years ago I heard a speaker state that 95% of communication in a romantic relationship should be acknowledgment. In other words, most of what you say to each other should be positive, complimentary and affirmative of the other.
This made me look at my own communication with my then husband. I didn’t track the percentage of acknowledgment, but I’m sure it wasn’t near 95%. Most of our communication was about daily tasks (what shall we have for dinner, who’ll pick up the dry cleaning, updates to our personal calendars). There was some discussion about daily events and some about our relationship, people in our lives, and getting advice from the other. While we weren’t nitpicky or regularly critical of each other, I noticed we weren’t overly complimentary either.
Since I tended to voice my dissatisfaction more than him, I decided to step up my acknowledgment of him and reduce anything that could be construed critical. I’d save anything that he might feel was not positive to only the big things that were really important to me. I’d begin to shower him with compliments.
It was hard. Not that there weren’t positive things to notice and comment on, but you have to train yourself to not just see something, but to say something.
And then how complimentary should one be about mundane things? Does it sound condescending when you say, “I’m glad you put on your seat belt” “Thanks for taking out the trash,” and “I appreciate it when you put your dirty clothes in the hamper”? When these are minimal co-living standards, should they be acknowledged? When I was a teenager, my mother complained that we never complimented her on dinner, so I suppose even agreed-upon chores still need acknowledgment.
My friend Mike Robbins is a master at how to verbally appreciate someone and have them hear it. He speaks on “The Power of Appreciation” and has a soon-to-be-released book titled “Focus on the Good Stuff: The Power of Appreciation.” I invited Mike to present to 50 managers as part of a year-long management training program I was leading for a client. Within an hour, he had taught these managers the skills they needed to share sincere appreciation with each other, and to take these skills back to their departments. I watched seasoned managers get touched to tears hearing their colleagues’ comments about how they made a difference in the other’s life.
I’ve brought Mike’s teachings to my dating adventure. I am more conscious of sharing my appreciation on a date, especially when I know he’s gone out of his way for me. Mike teaches you to not just say, “Thank you for taking me to such a lovely restaurant.” But to add, “I know you put effort in choosing a place you thought I’d enjoy. Your thoughtfulness makes me feel cared about and closer to you.”
Granted, I am not the master at this that Mike is and I still have a ways to go in practicing this regularly. But when I have remembered to do this, I’ve seen my date not only smile, but stand up a bit taller and seem to beam a bit.
In “Help your date notice his riches” I talked about commenting on things you think a date does well. Try coupling that with acknowledging how his behaviors make you feel good and see what happens. Write back after you’ve experimented with us and tell us what happened.
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