Well, so do I. So does everyone, in fact.
This post is Part 2 in a series I’m doing about the book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This book has helped thousands of people succeed in business and their personal lives, which is exactly the reason I’m reading it now!
Today’s topics are Importance and Appreciation.
The 7 Basic Human Needs
In order to do anything, we must be motivated. There is no other way we will do something. Even coercion is a form of motivation. If we are threatened, we are motivated out of the desire to protect ourselves. However, threatening and coercion most times yields negative results and resentment, maybe even fear. But regardless of the situation, most people are motivated by 7 basic desires. These desires are so strong, they could also be called needs.
People want for:
- Money/Financial security
- Sexual gratification
- Family and positive relationships
- The feeling of importance and/or purpose
There is one need above all others that affects happiness. And that’s the last one: the feeling of importance. This deep, unyielding desire sets human beings apart from other animals. It is what we strive for and what makes or breaks us.
We long to be recognized in our work, appreciated by our families, and complimented by strangers. The sincerest appreciation can carry us for days, making our world seem brighter and happier, motivating us to go forward so that we can receive that appreciation again. Sincere appreciation can be remembered and cherished for years, over the lifetime of its recipient.
In my wide association in life, meeting with many and great people in various parts of the world, I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism. (Charles Schwab)
To the other extreme, being chronically under-appreciated or feeling unimportant can lead to insanity. No joke. When dreams are better than reality, many people have historically gone insane. At the very least, I think all of us can relate to “feeling insane” or feeling like you’re “going crazy” when you’re not appreciated or noticed.
Appreciation vs. Flattery
We must be careful that when we recognize one another, we are offering sincere appreciation rather than empty flattery. Because people can tell the difference. We really can. Even children can tell the difference between praise for a job well done and the “everybody-gets-a-trophy” situation we see a lot these days. If a child wins a 1st place trophy in a competition, odds are he will cherish it, display it in his room and show it to guests that come over. But if he was one of 20 children that were equally given a trophy at the end of the season, odds are it will end up in the back of a closet, forgotten until the child grows up and goes to college.
I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise. (Charles Schwab)
Why do people participate in dog shows? Do the dogs care about winning first prize for the shiniest coat? Or walking the tallest? Or the length of their snout? Not a bit. Same with horse shows or the winning milk cow at the fair. Animals cannot relate to the human desire to feel important. It is uniquely human.
And oh! the lengths some of us will go to feel appreciated and important! The desire to feel important is why some of us build large houses, drive nice cars, and erect statues of ourselves (or I guess these days we take selfies and snap them to our friends). We want attention so much that some of us go the extra mile to gain negative attention: we fake being sick, act out, commit crimes, break things, steal. All just to get our 15 minutes of fame.
Children exemplify this desire on a daily basis. “Mommy? Mommy? Mommy look! Mom! Mom look! Are you looking?” “Daddy, watch! Listen to my song.” “Do you like my dress?” “Look at my hair, I did it myself!” We see this need manifest as soon as we are born. I think the “Still Face Experiment” demonstrates this uniquely human desire very well, as the baby tries several times to get the mother’s attention and begins crying when she doesn’t feel important anymore.
How the desire to feel important defines your character
How you achieve your feeling of importance determines your values. Does donating to charity make you feel like a good person? Does shoplifting make you feel like you were sneaky enough to get away with something? Does sleeping around make you feel wanted? Does your faith make you feel valuable to a supernatural being or give you eternal purpose? Where do you achieve your feeling of importance?
It’s an important question. In fact, if you’re not sure where you derive your feeling of importance, I suggest you take out a pen and paper and start making a list of things that make you feel good about yourself. I guarantee you, it will make you think!
Show the people around you that they are important
People would call it a crime if your families or employees went for six days without food, but ” they will let them go for six days, and six weeks, and sometimes 60 years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave almost as much as they crave food… We nourish the bodies of our children and friends and employees, but how seldom do we nourish their self-esteem? We provide them with roast beef and potatoes to build energy, but we neglect to give them kind words of appreciation that would sing in their memories for years like the music of the morning stars” (Carnegie).
So notice the people around you. Notice your kids, your co-workers, your neighbor next door. Tell them they are important to you and why. Be sincere. Offer genuine appreciation. Show them that they are important to you with actions or gifts of your own. Write a card. Mail a letter. Drop off a basket of fruit. Buy your wife that dress she’s been eyeing. Gift your husband with a certificate for a round of golf with his buddies. Show the people around you that you see them, you notice them, and that they matter to you. Appreciate them, and they will appreciate you, too.
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated. (William James)
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