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On Valentine’s Day: How to skip the sugar and give some real appreciations

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Remember “Sweethearts,” the little pink sugar hearts made by Necco that are given out on Valentine’s Day with words stamped on them? They’re called conversation hearts and printed with expressions like: Be mine, the best, hug me, luv me, too sweet, etc. Believe it or not, 8 billion hearts were sold last year, although some of them have been updated with sayings like, “text me” or “tweet me”

On Valentine’s Day, we’re trying if only in a sugary way, to tell people we care. Here’s a better way to tell someone you care without the calories or chalky residue left in your mouth:

Appreciate them. With a real saying. From you.

Unlike those little heart sayings that could be handed out to about anyone, make your appreciations longer and specific. You’ll make someone’s day. The more specific the better. I admit, even though I’m trying to kick the habit, I’m still a lush for appreciations like, “You’re great” or “Love your writing.”

But, if you really want to make my day or that of someone in your life, offer an appreciation that lets people know a particular reason why you like them or their work, or give an example of what went right for you. For example, that last blog post made me think, and I love that, even if I don’t totally agree.

A way to give positive feedback

When I teach about giving feedback, I sometimes encourage students to use the following sequence to offer their experience of another:

When you …(say what happened)

I felt ….(describe your experience)


As a result of that (share any outcome).

Sometimes a class member will complain, “But I don’t know them,” or “I haven’t been with them outside of class,” or “I’ve only known them for two years.”

This usually means one of two things:

  1. They have their radar up for insincere flattery and appreciations that are designed to get something (like sweeten them up and then ask for something).
  2. They aren’t used to noticing things about others or expressing what they notice. I assure participants that they should never offer insincere or manipulative appreciations.

Then, I then suggest they practice noticing.

I promise you that in a two-minute interaction with a clerk in a store you can find something to appreciate. It might be a pin someone is wearing or how they attend to you so quickly, or the fact that they ask you how you are.

Here are some real-time appreciations I can imagine giving to people in my life:

  • When you came into Zumba, I felt the energy pick up in the room.
  • When you asked about my Mom, I so appreciated your remembering. It makes the situation we’re dealing with easier.
  • The comments you offered in the meeting really got my attention because they were so thoughtful and relevant.
  • The fact that you do the food shopping is such a gift because it allows me to concentrate on my writing (thank you, husband!).
  • The story you told moved me because I could relate to your example of that girl.
  • The way you convened the group and brought everyone together was artful.
  • You have an incredible knack for finding just the right card to send; your cards make me feel great.

Practice makes the art of appreciation a lot easier, and what better time to practice than on the official I-care-about-you day?

Besides, appreciations are a good value (aka free) on the annual double-the-price-of-roses (Valentine’s) day.

Of course, there are some specifics you might not want to say:

  • That dress or Hawaiian shirt makes you look less fat.
  • The mic makes your voice sounds less screechy.
  • This time your presentation was interesting.

But you already know not to do that!

Can you imagine a Valentine’s Day where you make it your mission to appreciate others in your sincere, just-being-you way?


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