According to psychologist and philosopher William James, "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." He may have been right, or at least on the right track, if daily experience serves as evidence. From the toddling child who pulls dandelions from the yard and presents them to her mother to the co-worker who stays late to help a team member finish a report, the compulsion to do such things is in part a craving to be appreciated—to be recognized, attended to, understood, valued.
The solid foundation of appreciation is positive attention, recognizing not only the contributions and kindnesses of others but recognizing these others themselves. The manager who walks down a corridor greeting others by name, the father who sets a smart phone aside when his child comes running, and the colleague who looks away from her computer to recognize and reply to a person standing hesitantly in the doorway are all acknowledging the value of others.
Attention is validation, an expressed appreciation of those to whom we extend it. Make time to talk, listen, and see. It's how others know they exist for you.
"What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?" asked British novelist George Eliot. Many of us try daily to make life less difficult for others—offering to run an errand, write a document, make a call. These attempts often enrich life. An offer to host a gathering, locate tickets to an event, or cover a meeting so a colleague can attend a school program may answer the craving of both giver and receiver to be appreciated.
Yet many of us rebuff such offers, not wanting to impose or fearing that our acceptance will create an unwanted obligation. Either could occur. But acceptance is itself an act of appreciation. So say yes unless you have a sound reason to refuse; accept the gifts of time, expertise, or assistance that others offer.
Appreciation translates to action, the ways small and large that you let others know that you are grateful for them, for who they are and what they do. Know that for yourself as well as for others, "the craving to be appreciated" is both motivation and reward, cause and effect, need and its satisfaction. As William James also said, "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."
Were we each to follow his advice, every day might be a happy thanks—giving, one whose moments fill with appreciation and spill into its hours, a difference made.