April 11, 2007

(Why) is acknowledgement important?

In the solution-focused approach acknowledging the perspective of the other person is quite important. Insoo Kim Berg and Therese Steiner underlined the importance of acknowledgement when they wrote: "..all people want to be treated with respect, want to be valued and accepted, loved, and cherished, and made to feel they are making important contributions to society and that their wishes and desires are heard and respected." When you acknowledge the view and behavior of the other person he or she feels taken seriously which helps to create a better co-operation between the two of you instantly. Bill O'Hanlon said the following about the powerful effect of acknowledging: "You really give them a sense that they've been heard; that their experiences have been acknowledged; that who they are has been valued and validated."

Yet, when viewed from the opposite perspective (your own perspective) it seems wise to de-emphasize things like acknowledgement, recognition, praise, etc, a bit. Alfie Kohn, author of the thought-provoking book PUNISHED BY REWARDS, wrote: "Why is it important that excellence be recognized?" In his book, Kohn convincingly argues that material and immaterial rewards can distract a person from his task, diminish intrinsic motivation and impair relationships. If Kohn is right, and I think he is, focusing less on rewards and becoming less dependent on whether (or WHEN) you receive praise and acknowledgement may be wise. Many great artists and scientists from the past have only received full recognition after their death. Only their independence from recognition allowed them to go on and develop their work.

Mmmm... what does this mean? I guess, in solution-focused practice, acknowledging and complimenting is done most effective when done in an implicit way. An implicit acknowledgement, recognition or compliment is a part of a question. It works like this. Instead of saying: "Well done, you did an excellent job!" you might ask: "How did you manage to accomplish this very hard task?" When you do it like this, what you say does not feel like a reward or praise. Because of that, there is less chance that the other person's motivation and the relationship between the two of you will be impaired. Rather, it activates the other person to actually think about his accomplishment and how he did it.