10/23/15: Indispensable Wisdom from 1936

I just finished reading How To Win Friends and Influence People while I was touring colleges this weekend. It was written in 1936. It could have been written yesterday. It is just as relevant now as ever.

While I’m obviously not involved in the business world at this point in my life, I took a surprising amount of insight from the book. Carnegie’s major point throughout, in my interpretation, was this: Whenever appreciation is genuine, it is warranted. Spread it as freely as you are capable.

I consider myself to be a generally grateful person. I thank my teachers after class, my parents for providing me with opportunities, my friends and boyfriend for supporting me through life. At the same time, I’m an introvert; I’m not one to go gallivanting up to near-strangers to appreciate the color-coordination of their outfit (even if I do) or how much I love the way they spoke about something (even if I loved it). Appreciating people I don’t know honestly makes me nervous sometimes- what if it seems fake, unwarranted, or, God forbid, creepy?

After reading Carnegie, I decided to give appreciation for near-strangers a shot. As I was reading, I looked around the plane for someone to appreciate. The flight attendant on my flight was coming down the aisle, smiling and thanking everyone she spoke with. She had located my family to return my father’s beverage to him at the beginning of the flight, with no reason except to be helpful. I decided she would be the recipient of my first-ever Letter of Appreciation to Someone I Just Met.

Dear Ms. Flight Attendant,

                        I’m sorry I don’t know your name, but I wanted to thank you for being so attentive and kind. Between returning my father’s soda to him and your engagement with me and the other passengers on this flight, you have proven to be one of the best flight attendants I’ve ever had. Alaskan Airlines is genuinely lucky to have you.

                                                            Thank you!

                                                                        Avery 

Then I added, for good measure, since makeup art is one of my hobbies:

P.S. Your eye shadow is beautiful. I love the pink!!

I gave it to her as she passed by with the beverage cart, and suddenly found myself getting very nervous. For whatever reason, I was afraid she would be either creeped out or think the note was fake. In the back of my mind, I imagined her coming back to my seat to scold me for my ignorance and offensiveness.

Obviously, this fear had no basis in reality. Instead, she came back to my seat, crouched down with tears welling in her eyes, and said: “That was the sweetest note I’ve gotten from anyone in a long time. Thank you so much.”

Is it just me, or are we afraid to show genuine appreciation to the world? If it is everyone, we are we afraid? Why do we think people will criticize us for being appreciative? I can’t think of a situation in which I would look negatively upon someone’s appreciation of myself. I can’t imagine feeling anything but joy and the tingles of human connection in my chest. So why do we fear it?

I believe appreciating others makes us feel vulnerable in a very special sense. We do not make ourselves vulnerable in the sense of sharing personal things- appreciation is all about discussing the other person’s attributes. I think the vulnerability arises from the fear that we are engaging another’s emotions too much. How often do we discuss emotional and sentimental topics with mere acquaintances? Very rarely.

I don’t know why it’s so taboo to discuss and share emotions with people we don’t know well. As such an emotive species, it seems like it inhibits our ability to connect and fully flourish as social creatures. I would love to live in a world where it was more acceptable to be open about our emotions, desires, appreciation, fear, and feelings on the whole.

I suppose there is a reason why we don’t share these things, as a point of maintaining social order and boundaries. After all, if we confessed our feelings to everyone, how much more often would we fall in love? Much more- perhaps all the time. At least in my experience, I always get a sort of sentimentally romantic twinge every time I open up to someone else in an emotional way. I don’t act on these feelings, but if I were constantly bombarded by them, life would certainly be more confusing.

Regardless of the general sharing of emotions, that plane trip taught me that appreciating others is always worthwhile and positive if the appreciation is genuine. It has also compelled me to appreciate others whenever a situation to do so arises- not only is it beneficial to both parties, but it’s so easy. Saying thank you and expressing a sentence worth of “you are valuable and I appreciate what you do for me” takes seconds, but it can entirely change a person’s day. I hope you will all join me in taking those little opportunities to appreciate others and capitalize on them. I guarantee you will not be disappointed, and who knows; you might change a person’s life. I always hear the stories about people on the verge of committing suicide who change their decision based on a few words from a stranger- why couldn’t that stranger be any of us, in the right place at the right time?

At the end of the day, I want to be a positive influence on the world. Whether that is one person’s world or the world at large is not so important; it is only important that my footprint on the world when I exit it has been more positive than negative. At this point in my life, appreciation is the surest and easiest way for me to spread positivity. Today or tomorrow, try to appreciate one person you don’t know incredibly well, and see what happens (and comment about it if you please!). Who knows? Perhaps you’ll turn around a person’s day, week, month, or life.

20 thoughts on “10/23/15: Indispensable Wisdom from 1936

  1. Good on you for doing this! It really takes guts and courage, especially for an introvert to step outside the comfort zone

    You’re really working on helping make the world a “better” place 🙂

    Keep it up & how’s everything else coming along?

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    1. Thank you! As an introvert, it has always been difficult for me to talk to strangers in any faculty, so it was more of a triumph for me than might be expected.
      College applications are coming, school is difficult. I haven’t had quite as much time to work on personal projects, but I’m about to begin a novel that I’m very excited about!

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  2. Dear Avery,
    you are very wise, intelligent and loving. This I can discern from what you shared with us today. I am sure you are also many more wonderful things. Thanks for the inspiration to make my own extra effort to encourage others I interact with tomorrow. I also know the power of these seemingly small actions.
    you are right, it’s the vulnerability, the opening up of ourselves that leaves us nervous. And it may not always go well, but I suspect most of the time we will be enriched by the results.
    Keep being you, keep being awesome.
    Peter

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    1. Thank you so much. I’m so glad you feel inspired to encourage others; that’s my goal!
      I agree; while being vulnerable may occasionally hurt us, I believe that the vast majority of the time we will only be positively affected by these experiences. The difficulty is convincing people that the reward is worth the risk of being vulnerable to someone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are an inspiration.You surely will become a good influence to the world. Your good thoughts ,I believe, emanate from a good person that you are.

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  4. Thank u for sharing your thoughts on this subject. They reflect in such a pristine way what I have felt whenever I’m in the process of giving praise. I wanted to learn how to do it “freely” and “spontaneously” so that I could do it for my two children and be able to nurture their self-esteem. To make it easier, after reading Louise Hays books, I decided to start doing it for myself first. One would think it is much easier, but I got surprised at the resistance I experienced at the beginning. I’m proud I’m becoming better at it – for myself-, so I have hope for my children and family in general :p.
    Also, I completely agree with what you said happens when you open up to another person and discuss emotional subjects… I recently read somewhere an article that claimed there was a recipe to fall in love, and guess what? that was one of the steps “discuss emotional stuff with the other person”… it made me feel less “weird” (LOL).
    Thank u again…. I find your writing style so refreshing.

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    1. Thank you!! Your children truly are so lucky to have a parent who has worked hard to give them open praise. My mother has always called this “unconditional love”, and she is the most unconditionally loving parent I have ever met. She has made all 4 of us children know that no matter what we do or how we perform, she will love and respect and care for us. I think having a parent who unconditionally loves you is the most vital experience for life in being able to truly love yourself- at least, it’s a huge advantage in learning to love yourself. You have really done the most incredible thing for your kids. It’s interesting, too, when we try to apply the same unconditional love to ourselves- scary, because it’s often harder. We have expectations for ourselves that we would never put on anyone else (I definitely know this firsthand!). It’s great that you’ve been able to appreciate and care for yourself as you would your child or another human being. It really is one of the most crucial lifelong skills for cultivating happiness (which always comes from within).
      I know I’m generally a ridiculously sentimental person, but I think everyone benefits from an emotional talk. At the end of the day, I believe wholeheartedly that we all want to be loved and appreciated and respected. That is all. Talking to people about their emotions and really listening is perhaps the best way to show someone they are loved and cared about.
      Thank you so much for your comment and kindness!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s so sweet of you to write that note!!
    I’m most definetely afraid of expressing my emotions and I even get anxious around people in front of whom I can’t hide my true emotions. (It’s something I’m trying to overcome, though.)
    Dale Carnegie’s book is on my summer reading list and I can’t wait to read it! My mum has a copy of its Russian translation. (Russian is my parents’ and mine mother tongue.) I remember her reading to me a few years ago when I was going though a difficult time… I think that I need another dose of Dale Carnegie’s timeless wisdom 😉
    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and thoughts!!

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