One scorching, summer afternoon I picked my 11-year-old son up from a weeklong basketball camp. After a few hours sweating in a stifling hot gym watching boys race up and down the court, we were both glad to be in the air-conditioned car heading home. Shortly after we got on the interstate, the car began making some irrational noises that even an un-mechanical mom recognized as foreboding. After revving the engine to keep us moving along, the SUV revolted and shuddered; I unwillingly pulled to the side of the freeway near some dry weeds. Then I pulled out my American Automobile Association card (while strangely thrilled that I could finally claim that the annual fee was indeed worth it all!), and dialed them. The rest of the story is just as all of the AAA literature and brochures promised, except for the drops of sweat that burst out of our bodies while we waited for their arrival in the 100’ heat!

Why do we buy AAA road-assistance memberships?

1) We want great hope that our experiences driving will be pleasant and as hassle-free as possible.

2) We want confidence that if and when we encounter problems while on the road, we have a plan to begin to get us to our desired destination.

Relationships are very similar to those everyday journeys on the roads. We have desired destinations in almost all relationships in life. Just where do we want to see the results of our interactions and relationships with each person end up?

Here are the AAA relationship-assistance help (no membership or fee required!) that can improve the odds that your daily relationship experiences will be pleasant and as hassle-free as possible.

  • Acknowledgement
  • Appreciation
  • Affirmation 

Acknowledging and recognizing the presence of others goes a long way in connecting and building trust with them. While this sounds so simple, consider the last time that someone (at home, work, or even a restaurant) walked in the same proximity where you were and you did not take the effort, time, or focus to even acknowledge the individual.

And if you think a bit further, can you recall a time that you were on the receiving end of not being acknowledged or recognized – as if you were invisible? If you had to name a feeling for that experience or describe it, what word would you use? Dismissed, unvalued, low, unimportant? Gosh, those are not feelings or states of mind I want to impart on anyone!

Similarly, taking the time to appreciate someone’s efforts carries high value in developing and maintaining relationships of nearly any type. Can you remember a time when you accepted or took someone’s work, effort, or product with a sense of entitlement because – that was their job or that was what was agreed upon? And so, taking any energy to thank or appreciate that person’s efforts did not strike you as important?

Yet, upon reflection, can you recall the feelings you experienced after delivering a project on time, or providing the service or product to whomever it was due at or above the anticipated level of success – and not have any appreciation expressed for your efforts, investment of self, or for your time? While you did what was expected or needed, without appreciation being expressed for your efforts, did you secretly hope or wish that someone would stop and give you just a bit of appreciation? Was there a hint of a question that ran through your being asking, “Was my effort valued and appreciated? Am I valued and appreciated?”

If simple expressions of appreciation to others can help people feel valued, I want to be looking for as many opportunities throughout each day to say, “Thank you! I appreciate _______________ .” Through those simple words we were (hopefully!) taught to say as a little person upon receiving anything, and then naming what it specifically is that we appreciate, try it and take notice of how the countenance on the faces of people we slow up and take the time to express our appreciation for change. It’s as if a blessing washes over them. If you watch carefully, we will see how that small act of expressing our appreciation is like a cool glass of water in a parched land.

In our society that emphasizes what we DO, affirmation is a bit different in that it suggests a deep awareness for the value that others ARE. Certain traits and characteristics are unique to each person and bring special aspects of incredible value. Consider the last time that you mentally noticed or thought about a positive characteristic, habit, or ability someone else possessed – yet you didn’t take the time to comment and affirm that person for who he or she is. How many days go by where people wonder if who they ARE is of value… and then they question if they are of value not for what they can DO, but simply for who they ARE?

People certainly take notice when verbal affirmation for who they are is expressed. Can you recall a conversation when someone affirmed a character trait you possess, or affirmed some aspect of who you are – independent of what you do? It may have been someone taking time to say, “You know, you are really a kind-hearted person,” or “Wow, your ability to make people feel comfortable is special.” When someone affirmed who you are, what positive feelings flooded you for just a moment? And how did those words of affirmation stick with you? Perhaps you even recall a statement of affirmation from a teacher, parent or coach from your youth. Words of affirmation are powerful and they stick with us.

If I can take my eyes off of myself and be watchful for the valuable traits others possess, AND then expend a little bit of energy and verbally affirm them, what a powerfully positive impact on our world I can have! In many ways, we each possess the power to lift and transform our world – beginning with the affirmation for who others ARE.

If we could purchase a service to ensure our daily relationship experiences could be pleasant and as hassle-free as possible, I bet we would! We would pay for AAA relationship-assistance help! And yet we possess free access to improve how we manage all of our relationships and to make our world a better place. We hold the power to give Acknowledgement, Appreciation, and Affirmation. The question becomes, when will we slow up and take time to focus on others so we can build them up? How about today?