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Virtual Appreciation

Let's Get Creative

Expressing appreciation and feeling appreciated is challenging in the best of times, when we’re only a few steps or cubicles away from each other. But virtually? When you can’t smile, look someone in the eye, say a heartfelt “thank you”, give them a hi-five or swing by to drop off a latte? Oh boy. This whole virtual thing has really thrown us all for a loop; it’s gotten harder for some of us to feel plugged in and engaged from afar for a number of reasons, one of which could be that we can’t express or receive appreciation like we used to!


If you’ve been with YCNS for a while, you’ve heard us talk about the 5 Languages of Appreciation, based on the work of Gary Chapman and Paul White. But how do we translate those to the remote, socially-distanced world we live in now? We’ve got some suggestions that can work for team members and friends alike!


Words of Affirmation

This one has probably changed the least – it’s still easy to send a text or email, give a shout out to someone at a meeting, or call someone! Just remember to be specific, and be mindful of where and when that individual receives praise best. Some people prefer to stay out of the spotlight, so 1:1 communication like a text or phone call might be best. You can even get creative – go for a meme or a gif to mix things up. Now that we’re all virtual, we might as well embrace it! Others like to bask in the spotlight, so with those folks, you’re in the clear for a shout-out during a meeting or to shoot a round of applause gif to the group message thread.


Words of Affirmation in Action: The best affirmation is specific. Try,  “Thank you for ______________” or “I really appreciate the way you___________________________.” Sorry, but “Thanks for all you do” just doesn’t cut it, and we know you’re better than that!


Quality Time

Lots of us have discovered the joys of the virtual happy hour as a great way to connect with each other in the same moment, if not the same space. Schedule time for fun, and get creative! We’ve had great luck with Zoom and Google Meet to stream videos for a watch party, book club, or just a face to face catch-up. We’ve seen teams have virtual happy hours or scavenger hunts that allow us to, at least virtually, occupy the same “space” at the same time. And if you’re comfy with it, you can always have a social-distance happy hour or hangout! Just remember – another virtual meeting doesn’t count as quality time.


Quality Time in Action: Make it fun and have your team watch and discuss a Ted Talk (or one of our on-demand webinars), or at least make time to check in and catch up with your team members during your next conference call. Virtual lunch or coffee dates are always recommended!


Acts of Service

How can you help out your team members? Is it helping with a report or taking on some action items from a meeting? Does a friend need another set of hands for Derecho cleanup? If you’re at home with someone who feels appreciated by Acts of Service, pick up a couple extra chores, or organize an afternoon of pampering for your partner (some of you might have to brush up on your nail polish skills!). Offer to take notes or to keep an eye on the group chat during the next meeting to take some of the load off the meeting leader.  If you’re headed in a direction that someone else is going too, be the one who opens the doors to save them from having to touch more surfaces (just don’t forget to wash your hands!). Right now, wearing a mask and keeping a social distance are great acts of service, protecting those around you. Sometimes even saying what you would do if you could help can lift someone’s spirits.  As a team, check with local service clubs or your Chamber to see if you can safely perform acts of service virtually or socially distanced.


Acts of Service in Action:  At your next team meeting, ask each person to add to a shared document something that someone else could do to help them. Invite team members to periodically check that shared document for ways they can help others.


Receiving Gifts

Now that it’s tougher to bring bagels to the office or swing by a desk to drop off an afternoon pick-me-up, those of us who feel appreciation through tangible gifts are on the struggle bus right now. But there’s hope! Thanks to delivery services, you can send goodies or a virtual gift card, or even have lunch delivered, or a $5 Venmo for their next caffeine fix can brighten someone’s day! Extraordinary circumstances call for some creativity and out of the ordinary measures. You might have to drop a hint and ask for someone’s address or see if they’ll be home that afternoon to schedule a delivery or drop off, but it’s worth it!


Receiving Gifts in Action: Drop off a care package or find out where they grocery shop and make a pick-up order for them with some goodies. You can be at least a little stealthy about it – “Hey, where have you been grocery shopping? Trying to find some places that are taking social distancing seriously!” You might need to lose the subterfuge eventually and tell them next time they’re at the store to check the pick up orders.


Physical Touch

We saved the toughest for last. Like gift receivers, huggers and folks who really crave physical touch and affection to feel loved or appreciated are also having an extra tough time during this pandemic. Air hugs and screen hi-fives just hit different, and nothing is as good as the real thing. Unfortunately the closest a lot of us will get to physical touch is seeing someone’s face, either in-person, with a mask, or on a video chat. If we can’t get our daily dose of oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin (our hugger hormones), the next best thing is endorphins! Getting physical and getting active can be a great mood lift, especially if you can share it together (from 6 feet apart, of course).


Physical Touch in Action: If you can’t squeeze in the touch part, at least you can get physical! Go for a socially distanced walk together, or meet up for outside yoga, pilates, or even just some meditation to calm the mind and be in the same moment together. I’m also a huge fan of proxy hugs – enlist another household member for help! Tell that person’s child or partner to give a hug or a fist bump on your behalf.


We hope this gives you some helpful tips on translating and adapting the languages of appreciation in a virtual or socially-distanced world! But remember the most important part when it comes to expressing appreciation: the how depends on the who! We call them “Languages of Appreciation” because not everyone speaks the same one! If I send a Caribou card to someone who really thrives on words of affirmation, I’ve just watered a daisy with Diet Coke. Different people bloom and thrive with different forms of love and appreciation, and it’s our job to figure out what connects with them best so they feel valued and appreciated in their own language! Because if we genuinely appreciate people, we’ll put in the time and effort to show them just how much we value them.



Topics: Sinikka Waugh, Communication & Collaboration

Sinikka Waugh

About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day. Are you ready? If you are, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


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