Saturday, 23 March 2013

Understanding and Appreciation

We often say, “No … you don’t understand”, especially while arguing. More often than not, we do not mean so. What we really mean to convey is “No … you don’t appreciate”.

Understanding and appreciating are becoming mainstream skills in both the workplace and personal life.

Transforming society and new human understanding thrust many concepts upon us that test our ability to understand and appreciate. Among them, we have our favourites and taboos. We understand the dichotomy in some occasions and we do not care in many others. When pushed, we hide our confusion by simply accepting a viewpoint and avoiding judgement or additional thinking called for by the situation.

I see several commonalities and differences between understanding and appreciation.

Commonalities include

  • We need both understanding and appreciation. We are capable of providing and receiving them. Yet, each one remains a privilege. 
  • We understand and appreciate when good things happen to us. Likewise, when things go haywire, we do neither. 
  • In some scenarios, like retrospection, the boundary between them hardly matter. 
  • In some scenarios, like rage, we are blind to both. 
Endless questions come to mind when we think about differences between understanding and appreciation. It is a very personal list. I have listed a few of mine and quoted a few scenarios and examples to better understand the question.
  • Many times, we understand but do not appreciate. Yet, is it easier to understand than to appreciate
    • We understand begging and stealing but cannot appreciate either. 
    • We may never understand personal transformations in some people but may appreciate the outcome.
  • Should you understand in order to appreciate? Looks like it. Nevertheless, I do not understand art and the Universe – especially the Universe. It looks as if we are not worthy of understanding its origins or a few of its secrets. But I appreciate both.
  • Does appreciation apply to the act and understanding to thoughts behind the act? Though we say “I understand what you did” – we often mean, “I understand what triggered you to act this way”. 
  • When you understand, do you accept? Not necessarily, as one may understand but not appreciate. If that is true, then, does appreciation mean acceptance? Perhaps yes. But not when you are delivering appreciation assuming the role of a dispassionate actor. 
  • Is understanding a silent process whereas appreciation involves some kind of action? Looks like it. You cannot convey your appreciation without taking an action. However, you can communicate your understanding by remaining silent. 
  • Do we appreciate understanding? We do. We reward people who understand better. We also invite people to appreciate more. 
  • Do we understand appreciation? We are capable of detecting blind appreciation such as needless celebrity followings. However, we under-estimate the need for genuine appreciation. Hence, we do not deliver it more often. 
  • Through appreciation, can you understand better? It may be hard to appreciate without better understanding. 
  • Do understanding and appreciation map to reward and recognition systems? There is a relation but no direct mapping. Understanding and appreciation are core principles that drive reward and recognition systems at workplace. 
We balance understanding and appreciation most of the time. However, it is wiser to be sensitive to the dichotomy and individual needs.