This morning, every Hewitt student began the school day by meditating on a quotation from Marcel Proust: “Let us be thankful to the people who bring us happiness; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” When each of you thought about the people who make you happy, you were invited to write a name on a card in an act of quiet, powerful, and personal gratitude. Your individual acts of gratitude have come together today to form several “gratitude trees” that will serve as symbolic reminders that we have so many people surrounding us and giving us life every day.
And since as you know, the theme of the year is feedback, I would like connect the concepts of gratitude, happiness, and—yes—feedback. In the book Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen describe that there are three basic types of feedback. The first is appreciation, the second is coaching, and the third is evaluation. Today, we are demonstrating that first type of feedback: appreciation.
Now, I feel the need to defend appreciation for a moment. Appreciation, I think, sometimes gets a bad rap. Appreciation is not, as some might think, all sunshine and roses. If delivered in an authentic way, appreciation is not superficial. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen define appreciation this way: "Appreciation is fundamentally about relationships and human connection. At a literal level it says, 'thanks.' But appreciation also conveys, 'I see you,' 'I know how hard you’ve been working,' and 'You matter to me.' Being seen, feeling understood by others, matters deeply."
The authors go on to describe that no matter what age we are, "we never outgrow the need for those flashes of acknowledgement that say, 'Yes, I see you. I "get" you. You matter.'…Appreciation motivates us—it gives us a bounce in our step and the energy to redouble our efforts."
Appreciation is a life-giving—and life-affirming—piece of feedback. In giving appreciation and thanks, we are like the “charming gardeners” who make others’ “souls blossom.”
Later today, we will bring our gratitude trees back to Hewitt, and I hope that when you see them—in full appreciative bloom—they will remind you of that connection between gratitude, happiness, and appreciation, not just on Thanksgiving, but on other days as well. I hope that they will remind you to pay attention, to look for the little moments as opportunities to see and appreciate the people in your life, and to feel gratitude. And I hope that each time you seize a moment to feel thankful, you will also feel the happiness that follows.
For myself, please know that I appreciate each and every one of you gathered here today, and I wish you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you.
Dr. Kinsey delivered these remarks at Hewitt’s 2016 Thanksgiving assembly.