Every now and again, I get an email from someone who reads my blog or who has seen me speak. Sometimes, all the notes say is “Great post, I really enjoyed the perspective.” Other times, the note will relay that my message has touched their lives in some way. These notes are some of the greatest gifts I receive throughout the year because they give me the feeling of validation–that my work matters.
Because these small notes matter to me, I have made it a goal to recognize others in my life when they make an impact on me–even if it’s just to thank them for making a mark on my day or my life. I’ve found that in almost every case, the person on the other end of that interaction seems grateful for the acknowledgement.
In October of this year, on my way to a conference in Vegas, I encountered the most amazing flight attendant on my Southwest flight. He was terrific. His demeanor and attitude were infectious and his service couldn’t have been any better. By the end of the flight, I was sort of in awe of him and how he was so amazing at his job. So, when we hit the ground in Vegas, the first thing I did was tweeted Southwest airlines about how amazing he was (not sure they pay attention because they didn’t tweet me back). But, more importantly, on my way out of the plane, I said to him, “You are really remarkable at your job. Thank you.” It was his response that floored me. He said, “Thank you. We don’t hear that kind of think very often.”
He was amazing at his job, in a business where amazing is not all that easy to find. And yet, he seemed to be starving for validation, for acknowledgement that his work makes a difference. What a shame.
So, as we draw this year to a close, take some time to reflect on who has really made a difference in your life or who you were dazzled by in 2011 and then take the step to acknowledge them for the impact they’ve had on you. If you read a great book this year that you can’t stop thinking about, write the author a note and tell them as much. If you child’s teacher really helped them get motivated this year, write them an email to let them know that their efforts matter. If one of your co-workers really stepped up to support you throughout this year, make sure they know that you noticed and that you appreciate them. Those few minutes you take to validate the work of another may not seem like a lot to you, but it can mean the world to the person on the other end.
Give the gift of validation to others. It’s one of the easiest, cheapest and most valuable gifts you can give to another person.