Dreading the holidays? Not if you give the gift of acknowledgment​! Physician coaching makes the season festive

Here we are again!  Another year has passed and we’re searching the internet, stopping by the mall, wondering what to get the important people on our lists.  There’s always a new piece of technology or a good book, and most people appreciate something new for their wardrobe.  Giving a tangible item is gratifying if the person shows excitement. Unfortunately, if the response is more subdued, we’re left wondering if we missed the mark or even insulted the person with our choice.  Years ago, I was given a name necklace that read, “Helen.”  While Helen is a beautiful name, it’s not mine.  I recognized the people considered me important enough in their lives to give me a gift, but their choice didn’t do a good job of conveying their feelings toward me.

close up shot of black color gift box in handHow do we let people know they are important to us?  What gift can accomplish this goal every single time?   The gift of acknowledgment is the answer to our dilemma!

Acknowledgement is simply letting a person know what we value about them.  It may be a way they show up in the world – perhaps we count on them for their honesty.  It may be something that they do for us – perhaps they make us laugh.  It may be a way in which they inspire us – perhaps with their work ethic or the way they overcome adversity.  Or it could be a single instance in which they made a difference in our lives – perhaps they covered for us so we could attend a family event.

Unfortunately,  our profession (and society at large) encourages criticism more than compliments.  “No news is good news.”  We are told to assume that, unless someone points out what we did wrong, we are doing fine.  So when we do take the time to acknowledge something we value, people notice.  Often, they deflect the compliment.  “It wasn’t a big deal.”  “I wish I could be funny every time.”  “Oh, you didn’t see the time I failed at that!”  But if we hold our ground and repeat what we’ve said, they eventually understand they’ve been seen.  And appreciated. That they made a difference.

We can deliver this sentiment verbally, with a note, or with a tangible gift that reflects what we find so valuable about each person.  Goodness knows, there are refrigerator magnets that portray just about anything these days!

The results of our acknowledgments can be far-reaching.  We get more of what we reward, so we encourage people to continue to bring this behavior into the world when we reward it with acknowledgment.  We provide an important tool for people to begin to see their strengths more clearly, giving them greater confidence.  We enhance our connection with them as they recognize we see and appreciate them.  And we derive the pleasure of watching their delight.  Bullseye!  We have hit the perfect mark in gift-giving.

About Helane Fronek

Over the past 28 years I have had a fascinating and fulfilling career in medicine, initially practicing as a general internist and then as a procedural specialist, caring for patients with vein disorders. As Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine at UC- San Diego School of Medicine, I’m thrilled to be teaching medical students crucial communication skills along with many other aspects involved in the practice of medicine.
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