Interactions of many kinds

It's easy to nod in agreement that we should treat others with respect. In practice, things can be more challenging. Sometimes it is not so self-evident that our interactions convey mutual appreciation. Previous disagreements or differences in ways of working, for example, can hamper our ability to show respect to one another.

In the rush of everyday work, appreciation is sometimes left unexpressed, even when you really do appreciate a colleague’s effort. With our focus on getting tasks done, we forget to pay attention to colleagues and our own ways of expression.

However, without realising it, we always observe how other people feel about us. Whether intentional or not, our interactions, or lack thereof, can be interpreted negatively. When friction arises, it is always beneficial to take initiative and close the gap to your colleague.

You can start by telling how you have experienced the cooperation, just to get the ball rolling. Then listen, attentively, to how your colleague feels in reaction to your experiences. The important thing to remember is that we are in this together. We can find solutions to friction points together, and together we can learn to appreciate diversity and see its benefits.

Appreciate the small things

Showing and feeling appreciation builds on the small interactions of the day. For example, the simple morning greeting when arriving at work produces an experience of being seen and a sense that you matter.

Non-verbal communication plays a big role in every interaction, no matter how brief. An attentive look and encouraging nod can immediately make workmates feel valued. Conversely, negative nonverbal communication can significantly dilute even well-intentioned words.

In general, our culture emphasises words and the art of expression. In her book “You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters”, Kate Murphy highlights the fact that listening is just as important a skill as speaking. The attention you give to others by listening to them properly is a gift, and a clear sign of appreciation.

Opportunities to interact outside of actual work are also a form of appreciation. Inviting your colleague to join you on a break or sit together for lunch conveys the message that your colleague, separate from work, is important.

Actively demonstrate appreciation

Often people are timid about asking someone else for help. For example, you may fear your colleague is already busy, so your request would be overburdening. However, asking for support is a way to actively show appreciation. The underlying message is that you think your colleague is sharp (and good-natured), so it's worth asking for help.

Positive feedback is perhaps the most direct way to actively show appreciation. Keep the threshold low. Colleagues shouldn’t have to perform miracles to hear good feedback. Take every opportunity to tell others what has delighted you about their actions and presence. Let them know why you are grateful that they are a part of the work community. 

As a supervisor or, for example, a project manager, you can also actively show appreciation in how you assign work. Giving someone a demanding task is saying, "I trust you as an expert, and I know that you can handle such a challenging case.” If a colleague never gets difficult tasks, it can lead to a feeling that one's contribution is insignificant or that one is not trusted.

Of course, it's a balancing act to distribute the right amount of work that is meaningful – neither too much nor too little is ideal. An active, open dialogue about the division of tasks helps ensure everyone has enough good food on their plate, so to say.

These active demonstrations of appreciation are easy to miss in remote work setups. While remote work has its benefits, interactions with colleagues may dwindle. Mutual appreciation amongst colleagues can be lost if interactions are limited to virtual meetings, especially when cameras are kept off. In these situations, it becomes even more important to make a conscious, overt effort to show appreciation.

Be respectful even in conflict

Maintaining respectfulness in your interactions is always important, even more so when someone is upset. Whether it’s due to words and actions or dissatisfaction with work results, emotional tensions can easily lead to misunderstandings.

Often our reaction to conflict is to distance ourselves from the other person. However, that's precisely when we need to reach out. Once the strongest emotions have subsided and you have had time to reflect, engaging to resolve conflict is better for the work community over the long term.

From my own experience, if I have some lingering issues with someone, a safe starting assumption is that my colleague didn't act with ill intentions. People have reasons for their behaviour that are rooted in their life situation. While you don't have to accept those reasons, fostering reconciliation can be aided by understanding them.

For instance, someone may have snapped at you out of tiredness or due to a misunderstanding. A good approach to resolve the matter is to start with an attitude of good-natured curiosity. Figure out what happened with an open mind. When your motivation arises from a desire to respect and understand the other person in order to make things run more smoothly, you're more likely to succeed.

Educator Stephen R. Covey articulates well how we should approach a person with whom we have differences: "If someone as intelligent, competent, and dedicated to their cause disagrees with me, there must be something in their perspective that I don't understand. I need to explore their viewpoint more closely”.

If I hear that someone has been upset by something I did, proactive action is a sign of respect. Taking an opportune moment to address the issue shows that you care. Inquire, listen attentively and share. Positive, respectful interaction builds a foundation for successful cooperation.

If you need support in improving your interaction skills, the Auntie package Dream Team in Process can help. The package topics are fundamentally interactive, and you can work on expressing appreciation in one-to-one discussions with an Auntie professional.


Covey, Stephen R. (1989) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change.

Murphy, Kate (2020) You're Not Listening: What You're Missing and Why It Matters. Helsinki: WSOY.


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