Hello, Can You Hear Me: The Power of Professional Acknowledgement

The human condition is a fragile one. Weathering the storms of life, from romantic relationships to rocky career transitions, our emotions are constantly tested, and from them we transform into better people than we came in with.

You might have tuned in to your radio or come across mainstream music artist Adele’s latest single in the past few weeks, titled Hello. This song has nothing to do with Lionel Richie’s similarly named hit, but rather is a ballad seeking forgiveness in love, one rare in a world filled with songs espousing the feeling of victimization or loss — yes, I am looking at you TS fans.

Aside from the diva-off, this Adele instant-classic, sure to be a part of an award-winning CD, provides not only a refreshing song to listen to, but an important primer on life: the gift of acknowledgement and the importance of being both seen and heard in every part of our lives, even our careers.

The need for acknowledgment is not just confined to millennials, who are criticized for everything under the professional sun. Sure, we may have received participation trophies as children (and I did), but that doesn’t discount the fact that no matter what age you’re at, recognition is something worth attaining. Simple acknowledgement does that at the core.

But while acknowledgement is something we all can stand behind, we also seem to be losing the battle for giving and receiving it. For example, job applications go unanswered, calls to recruiters go unreturned, and emails ignored. We can’t even seem to automate our acknowledgement most of the time, which in my eyes perpetuates a habit that hurts everyone beyond our careers into areas like our friendships and relationships. Would this make acknowledgement, and not the free yoga, meals, and massages the real perk we should be aiming to give everyone?

So what do we do? It’s been said time and time again that people do not care what you know until they know that you care. That on the core addresses the need for acknowledgment in itself, whether you’re a marketing manager, programmer, accountant, or a crooner singing about wanting to be heard. We must work harder as professionals to point out the positive and see our peers and colleagues, especially as we head towards even busier times with the holiday season coming up.

Some suggestions:

  1. Spend time acknowledging others each week. Terces and Matthew Englehart (founders of the critically acclaimed vegan restaurant Cafe Gratitude) write about the importance of noticing others in Kindred Spirits and sharing their encouragement. Both bosses and their reports should point out what’s going right, even if everything is going wrong (there is always time for criticism).
  2. Ask — what you want, and what others want. The average human being wants to get more out of their lives. Point out the hard work others are doing, and seek to lift them higher. A rising tide does lift all boats.
  3. Once you ask and give/take, listen. As human beings we have two eyes, two ears, and one mouth. Intelligently designed or otherwise, we were made to see others and hear others, and only then do we reply. As a marketer, I cannot emphasize the importance of words and their impact on another person. Why not use them to acknowledge someone? Change your words, change your life, or someone else’s

My challenge to you this upcoming holiday season and into 2016 where you’ll find yourself surrounded by co-workers as you push towards your goals is to exercise the power of acknowledgement, and to see and hear people you normally might not. We may not have the expressive and earth-shattering voice of Adele to ask for our acknowledgement, but by simply giving what we do, we set the intention to change everything from the vast expanses of planet earth to the lives of those in front of us, while making our lives and the human condition slightly easier.

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