An e-mail from one of the lawyers for whom I do contract work caught me by surprise.

“I appreciate you,” she said in closing.

I used to use that expression.  I stopped nearly a year ago.  Two different sets of circumstances gave me negative reinforcement for my expression of appreciation for others.

One person, who shall go unidentified, unnamed, and ungendered, protested that I should say, “Thank you.”  The objection came often, loudly, and angrily.  For several years, no explanation accompanied that insistence.  I parried as long as I could.  To me, an expression of appreciation transcends the trite and glib toss of  “thank you” over one’s shoulder.  The individual finally settled on this logic:  Saying ‘I appreciate you’ places the focus on the receiver, not the giver.  This resonated with me.  I tried to adjust my avowal.  I made no impact.  The person merely shrugged, in reality and metaphorically.  Too little, too late, came the pronouncement.

Last fall, I did business with someone in Kansas City who had taken over for someone else whose lack of competence or lack of concern cost me nearly two thousand dollars.  I wanted the new relationship to have only positive energy. I ended every verbal conversation and each e-mail with “I appreciate you”.  Eventually, the person mirrored me:  “I appreciate you, too.”

But in this case, the person lacked sincerity.  The person only cared about their profit, wanting to expend as little energy as possible to increase the net return.  The job that I hired this person to do nearly collapsed from inattention.  I struggled to overcome omissions and remissions eventually having to hire an attorney to sort out the quagmire.  I did not feel appreciated in any sense of the word.  Friends gasped at the other individual’s attitude when the omissions and remissions came out.  I was labeled “not nice” for voicing my concern when I had to seek an attorney’s intervention.

I stopped telling people that I appreciated them after these experiences.  In fact, both of these encounters — one from a close intimate, one from a friend whom I hired — pushed me a little further inside myself.

Hearing the phrase tendered to me this week reminded me of its loveliness.  I always used it with care and conviction.  When I told someone that I appreciated them, I meant it.  I believed that the extra effort conveyed my genuine gratitude.  I often added specifics:  I appreciate that you did . . . I appreciate your attention to. . . I appreciate the effort you expended when you. . . 

I am contemplating a reinstatement of the phrase to my repertoire.  Maybe it’s time that I do what feels right to me, leaving the nay-sayers behind me.  And, for the record, I appreciate the lessons which their negativity taught.  I don’t think for a moment that they intended to be of such momentous assistance, but I’m willing to take my education where and as I find it.

It’s the thirteenth day of the fifty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


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