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What To Do When We Feel Unappreciated

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Unappreciated. We’ve all felt it at one time or another, haven’t we?

In the writing world, we writers often do a lot for each other—give critiques, help promote a new book, write up book reviews, link to blog posts, shout out on twitter or facebook, etc. Most of the writers I’ve met have big hearts and end up giving the shirt off their backs to help others.

When we give of our limited time to help, but then, for whatever reason, don’t feel like the recipient really cares that we made an effort, the unappreciation stings. Maybe we’re not expecting anything in return. But a simple acknowledgement of our help or small thank you would go a long way.

This past fall with the release of my first book, The Preacher’s Bride, I’ve been on the receiving end of a LOT of help from a LOT of different people. Many of YOU bought my book and that, in and of itself, is an incredible support for which I am deeply grateful. Others went above and beyond, offering me interviews, writing up book reviews, shouting out the news wherever they could, and so much more. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

However, now that I’m several months into my debut, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve made anyone feel unappreciated for all of their work on my behalf. Recently, someone anonymously left a comment expressing a feeling of unappreciation for their work as an influencer. And even though it wasn’t directed at me (or maybe it was!), I still took the comment to heart. Had I somehow missed expressing my gratitude to those who’ve helped me?

With worry slipping over the frozen pool of my heart, I thought back to the chaos of the past few months. What had I done wrong? What could I do differently next time to make sure that everyone who supports me knows just how much I appreciate it?

I’m still mulling over those questions. In the meantime, here are a few of my thoughts about how we can all deal with those times when we’re feeling unappreciated:

Give without expecting anything in return.

As hard as it is, we really will build better relationships if we’re giving selflessly, without the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” attitude. I always feel a bit icky when someone helps me (and I think they’re doing it because they really want to), but then a few weeks later they ask me for a favor.

I’ve tried to make it my personal philosophy that I give without asking for anything in return. I choose projects carefully, whether that’s a critique for a friend or an endorsement on a book. And once I agree to help someone out, I let them know I absolutely don’t expect them to reciprocate. I’m helping them because I'm already blessed in so many different ways.

Put ourselves in the place of the other person.

When I’m feeling unappreciated, I try to put myself in the other person’s shoes and imagine what their unique situation and circumstances are. Perhaps they’re just too busy to keep up on social media life, especially every comment and every tweet.

Since I’ve now been in the situation of being completely overwhelmed (especially during the initial weeks before and after my book’s release), I realize just how hard it is to keep up with interviews, reviews, blog comments, and tweets. Although I tried really hard to visit each blog that either hosted me for an interview or reviewed my book, I may have unintentionally missed someone. I also didn’t have the chance to tweet about or put a link on facebook for every interview or review. As much as I would have liked to bring attention to each one, I didn’t want to gag my followers with an overdose of promotion on my book.

Give others the benefit of the doubt.

When we don’t understand why someone isn’t showing us appreciation, we can still show them grace. We don’t need to get angry and stop following them or refuse to support them. In fact, if their lack of appreciation hurt us significantly enough, then perhaps we need to write them a private email and kindly express our feelings. Often open communication is all it takes to clear up a misunderstanding.

Do our best to show appreciation to others.

When it’s all said and done, we can’t control how other people act. But we can make an effort to continue doing our best at showing our gratitude for the good things others do for us. In fact, we can give simply because it usually blesses us more than the recipient.

Of course there will always be those who will use people and toss them aside when they no longer need them. So, yes, we do need to be careful about setting boundaries, offering our help judiciously, and not letting others take advantage of our willing spirit.

However, most writers I’ve met are truly generous people. If we all have the attitude of helping and encouraging one another without expecting anything in return, just think how much good we can do for one another!

What about you? Have you ever worked hard to help someone only to feel that your efforts went unappreciated? How did you handle the situation?

P.S. There's still time to enter The Preacher's Bride Christmas giveaway! The deadline for entering is Thursday Dec. 16 at 10:00 P.M. For rules and to enter click here.

31 comments:

  1. Interesting topic! More than feeling unappreciated, I have worried that I've been guilty of forgetting to properly thank a fellow writer for something they've done for me - especially on the web where there is so much information and things happen so quickly. I have to give credit to your lovely critique partner Keli Gwyn. She's one of the most appreciative, encouraging writers out there.

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  2. Julie states it beautifully. I have to say I like your humble approach to this topic, Jody. I think service done from the heart is when it deserves to be called service. The rest might be called favors.

    Great post - perfect for the holiday season!

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  3. Good morning ladies!

    Great point, Julie! Things do happen so quickly on the web that it is often hard to keep up. I have a google alert set up to let me know when someone mentions me in a blog post or does a review on my book, but for some reason, not all of those come through.

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  4. Man, I tell you with so man things in life it all comes back to expectations. If you go into helping someone waiting for the thank you and the signs of appreciation you are more times than not going to walk away disappointed. This is why I loved your #1.

    I love to give without expecting to get. It feels even better giving that way anyway.

    Great post, Jody!
    ~ Wendy

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  5. so many things in life. Or maybe for some odd reason I felt like writing man twice. ;)

    Merry Christmas.
    ~ Wendy

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  6. Unappreciated always.

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  7. Hi Jody, just few months back I went through the feeling of being unappreciated. I felt I had done lots for another writer and the least she could have done was acknowledge it.

    But later I realized that I had not expected anything (any monetary or anything else) in return, so why was I expecting gratitude. Maybe she was one of those people who are unable to express their gratitude in words.

    Nowadays..I have decided to help people and forget about it. No expectations at all. That way I will be avoiding disappointment.

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  8. Hi Rachna, Ouch. It still hurts when we do something for someone (especially if we invest a lot of time and effort) and they don't say thank you. I know I would feel slighted too. I really do think we should all try the best we can to say thank you to others.

    But I guess I've also learned that sometimes I might unintentionally make someone feel unappreciated. I'd much rather have that person email me and let me know. Then I can properly thank them (and let them know I'm sorry!). But that's just me. I'd hate to loose a friendship over miscommunication.

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  9. All of that's good to remember, but one also has to be on guard for those who feel entitled to having others do their work for them. It happens a lot with writers starting out -- they ask those of us who make our living at it for advice, we take time away from paying work to give them detailed responses, and then they argue, insult us, or throw it back in our faces. Or they demand to be walked in to our contacts without any work on their part, simply because they feel we "owe" them because we are published and they are not. Doesn't work that way.

    If you don't want to use someone's advice, fine. Don't. But if you expect someone to take time away from their own work because you ASKED, simply say "thank you" and then make your own decisions from there.

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  10. This is a great post.

    I'm one of those who is more worried that I haven't appreciated/reciprocated enough. Me doing more doesn't bother me...I strive to have my Karmic scales leaning in my direction (me giving more). It doesn't always happen, but I try.

    Also, especially with critiquing, we naturally get as much as we give, since critting anyone's work can teach us as much about our own writing process/hangups/etc. as we "teach" the other person.

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  11. Hi Devon, Good discussion! It's hard for any of us to take time out of our busy schedule (whether published or not), to help someone. And then to have them argue back or not use the advice makes it difficult to want to help again. The "lack of time" factor is one of the reasons I choose carefully where I put my efforts. But I think we also have to know who truly has an attitude of wanting the help.

    And Jennifer, that's a great point about critiquing. We really do benefit as much (if not more) when we critique someone else's work!

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  12. Great post, Jody! I think your idea about giving without expecting anything in return is beautiful. Unconditional giving allows a person to really put their energy into what they are doing instead of wondering what they might get in return.

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  13. My perspective comes from the outside looking in. And this is not simply in the writing world, but in life in general. My offers to help others fall on deaf ears because I'm on the other side of the glass. I would love to help others. I would. But I've pretty much given that up. People only want help from those who are visible. Plus, people are mean and selfish at their basest level. They don't understand that it's just as impolite to refuse hospitality as it is not to offer it in the first place.

    That's my rant for the day, something that's been frustrating me for years, ever since the first time in my married life that I got up at the crack of dawn to make a beautiful breakfast for my guests, only to have it refused. Why can't people accept help or generosity?

    The answer to this question would also be the answer to Devon's question. People argue with you, Devon, because, ultimately, they are unwilling to accept help. But why?

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  14. I have always been taught to be as polite as you can be. Please and Thanks You's come out of my mouth faster than the speed of light. However when I do things for others I have the attitude where I do not expect anything in return, but I quickly end things if I notice someone is abusing the power of my help. I usually have a pretty hard time asking others for help as I never believe I can thank them enough.

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  15. Great post, Jody. I must say I don't usually feel unnappreciated but I do worry if I'm not doing ENOUGH when I'm influencing. I feel like there's a trust that's been given to me and I don't want to shirk it. Maybe if I sent the author coffee it'd help??? :)

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  16. Jaime, Thank you for bringing up the influencer side of the equation (I think it's similar to what Mindy brought up). From my perspective (as an author who has had influencers), I am SO glad for any effort someone makes whether big or little (if there's even a way to qualify it!). Even if influencer isn't comfortable posting something on their blog, but shares the book with a library or promotes it to a book club or writes an Amazon review. Everything helps. I'm sure I can speak for other authors out there in saying, "THANK YOU for any bit of help!" (And for the record, Jaime, you went above and beyond in helping influence for The Preacher's Bride--you were awesome!) :-)

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  17. I would hate to discover that someone felt that I had slighted them in some way--I am so apprecative of all the wonderful things other people do for me, both in real life and online. Sometimes I may not verbalize it as well as I should--this is something I plan on posting about as we ramp up to Christmas.


    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  18. Your first point is a big one. I see giving without expectation of anything in return happening a lot in my church. In fact, I often *don't* see it because something is done so quietly that I only learn of it later. And I think that's the kind of giving Jesus had in mind in Matthew 6:3, "But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing." Altruism in action.

    But, of course, on the flip side, there's "In all things give thanks."

    It's a little like agape love in that if both sides care more about the other than themselves, the needs of both are abundantly met.

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  19. I hope you know your assistance with my revision woes was much appreciated :).

    Thanks!

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  20. Another great post and topic, Jody! Thanks!

    I agree with Devon's comments. When I was a magazine freelancer, I often heard from newbies asking for advice, and I would spend a lot of time helping them only to feel that what they really wanted from me was my editors' phone numbers.

    Although I'm not published in fiction (yet!), I've had a few people also ask me about "breaking in," and I dive in and write long, passionate emails back and don't hear much in return. The solution, of course, is to have a website with this info on it to point them to (I don't have that yet) or to have pre-written responses (I think I have these...somewhere?) or just be a lot more brief in the responses.

    In other words, I do believe it goes back to me being more choosy about how I spend my time. I don't think these people probably expected (or maybe even wanted) all of the info I worked hard to provide. I've since become more aware of what a time suck this can be.

    Don't get me wrong! I think it's important and valuable to help others, especially newbies. But I shouldn't do for them what they can do for themselves! :-)

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  21. What a beautiful post! I LOVE your suggestions to get over those feelings and help ourselves be more appreciative. Thank you, Jody. :)

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  22. Hey Cameron, I hope you know that whatever help I hand out is purely because I want to! No strings attached at all! :-)

    And kellye, great thoughts. I do think we need to be discerning. I always try to answer questions (and actually really like getting quetions!) But often times when someone emails me with a question, I'll point them to a previous blog post I did on the topic, or I'll ask them if them if it would be okay to write an answer to their question in a new blog post. That way others who are curious about the same thing can get my answer.

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  23. I can't imagine anyone not feeling appreciated by you. You have such a generous spirit.

    I rarely feel unappreciated because of what you stated--I don't expect anything in return. Also, I am careful about being a wise giver. I only have so much time each day, and my actions reflect that.

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  24. I'll be sure to say thanks to my fellow local writers at our party this week.

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  25. Great Post as ever Jody!And Thank you commenters for the thought provoking comments. I think all of us reading here will have experienced the thoughtlessness of others who take and don't acknowledge the time and effort you have put in to give back to the writing community.
    It is nice to find blog communities like Jodys that give and don't count the cost...because it will come back in abundance in some way...
    Merry Christmas everybody...(from the sweltering southern hemisphere)

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  26. Hi Jody -

    Aww, Jody, you're one of the most gracious bloggers on the Net. :)

    I try to think the best of people.
    The last few weeks, life hit hard. Others are not immune to such events. Tack on preparations for Christmas, and you have the makings of a time-management nightmare.

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  27. I like this so much. It's so easy to forget the other side of the equation and forget to thank someone verbally, especially when you might have thought it internally.

    I was feeling under-appreciated in many areas--as a critiquer, as an employee. I'll try your suggestions. I need them!

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  28. I worry about the same thing. So many people have helped me get the word out about my novels, I hope that I've showed them the proper appreciation.

    I can't wait to dive into your book. I'm going on vacation during the holidays and hope to read it.

    Great post!

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  29. You've been VERY generous with your thanks on this blog, Jody. I don't think you need to fear that at all!

    I felt underappreciated from time to time when I was younger. Now that I'm a bit older (ahem) I'm in a place where I don't focus on reciprocation or adulation. Like you, I give without expecting something in return. And, it's what we're trying to teach our kids. Time will tell if it's working!

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  30. Great topic. I have felt that burn before of doing a favor--particularly critiquing. If I spend an hour or two on critting for someone and then I get a simple "got it" email or nothing at all, I get a little huffy. Not that I expect some long drawn out thanks, but a simple thank you for your time (even if they don't agree with the critique) is always nice.

    And like you, I worry that I've also been on the other end of this and missed saying thank you to someone. Because I can't visit as many blogs daily that I used to, I know I miss sometimes when people mention or link to me (Google Alerts doesn't catch everything) and I feel bad that I missed acknowledging that. I think all we can do is try our best, and like you said, do things not expecting anything in return.

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  31. As a pastor's wife, I feel this often. This last October, which is Pastor Appreciation Day, the ONLY person in our congregation who acknowledged that they appreciated us was one lady who said she was glad we'd stayed so long, because she hated the thought of having to interview and hire a new preacher! OUCH.

    The Lord has to keep reminding me that I am here to serve others, they are not in the church to serve me. Then, if I trust Him, He fills up my emotional gas tank by other sweet friends. Like you.

    Happy Weekend!
    Jen

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