What's the big deal with the A-Word?

The A-Word I’m talking about is AFFIRMATION.

And why is it so important? For most people, receiving words of affirmation has the same impact as pouring water on a thirsty plant. People stand up taller, smile more broadly and often project a greater sense of confidence when they hear affirming words.

There’s an important, but subtle, distinction between AFFIRMATION and another A-Word: APPRECIATION.

We tend to appreciate what someone does for us:

-Cooks a good meal

-Runs an errand

-Gives a gift

-Makes a sale

-Solves a problem

-Repairs something


Yes, it’s important to be appreciative of what others do for us. Having a grateful spirit is good for our physical and spiritual health and makes us much more pleasant to be around. (If you don’t think so, just have coffee with someone who complains about everything!)

 But appreciation is generally connected with performance. 

If a person can no longer perform...is incapacitated in some way...loses a bit of their physical beauty...or if the calendar page has turned to another year and no sales have been made yet….is their worth diminished? 

Instead of always focusing on what another person has done for us, why not try focusing on who they are as a person? On their character? To encourage another as a “human being”, not just a “human doing?”

Here are a couple of simple examples of how to make this shift:

  • If you’re out for dinner, certainly thank the server for bringing your meal. But if you’ve received excellent service, why not look the server in the eye and tell them how much you value their positive attitude and attentiveness? (And support those words with a generous tip!) 
  • If your child has worked hard in preparation for a test, compliment their diligence and work ethic and don’t focus on the grade they received.
  • For Mother’s Day, instead of just relying on Hallmark, write a note to your mother or grandmother and affirm the beautiful things you see in her character.

Expressing words of affirmation doesn’t come naturally for most of us. It’s certainly not the norm for society today. Yes, it will probably make you feel a little uncomfortable. 

But please try it! You just might brighten someone’s day.


This is so good! My husband's primary love language is words of affirmation, and this is a good reminder of the difference between the two words.