What acknowledgement really looks like

In Co-Active Coach Training, one of the skills they teach us to develop is to acknowledge others. Acknowledgement is the act of truly seeing someone – both what they are doing and who they are being.

Acknowledgement begins by “naming the qualities we see, admire, or appreciate in someone”. When you send acknowledgement to someone it can feel a bit like delivering a gift. When you’re on the receiving end, it can feel like being seen for you who truly are.

The gift of unexpected acknowledgement

Last month, I caught up with one of my mentors and close friends, Wendy. I’ve known Wendy for 13 years. She became my manager at one of my undergraduate jobs at Rochester Institute of Technology. She’s been with me through it all, highs and lows.

In the middle of our most recent conversation, I noticed the energy shift. Wendy opened up about what it was like to bear witness to my journey from undergrad to today. She spoke of my authenticity, how I approach things in a brave way, and challenge the status quo.

At first, it was really uncomfortable! I was completely taken aback. Whenever I receive any piece of positive feedback, my harsh inner critic immediately shoves it aside. This time, I caught myself in the moment. I leaned into what Wendy was saying and let her shower of acknowledgement cover me. It was one of the rare moments in my life when I felt heard and seen.

Recognizing the power behind your words

Acknowledgement is best delivered authentically and in the moment. When it’s done well, it can be felt in the soul of the person receiving. It can transform perspectives and motivate individuals, teams, and cultures. When done wrong, it can come off as insincere flattery or praise that sounds like “good job” or “I appreciate you”.

Below are some phrases you can use to begin sharing acknowledgement with others:

You are….You are kind. You are caring. You are brave.
I notice/observe….I notice you taking you time out of your day to help your team. You are caring and thoughtful.
I really appreciate/admire…I admire your deep commitment to ongoing learning.

Transitioning to this way of acknowledging someone can take some time. Traditional feedback mechanisms and performance models ask us to steer far away from statements about who someone is and instead focus on what someone does (behavior). This is often done out of fear.

I invite you to challenge this status quo. If who someone is (their qualities and characteristics) leaves a mark on your heart, tell them. Together, we can change the world with acknowledgement.


Storms, G. (2022, January 5). How to acknowledge others in coaching: Co-active training. Co. Retrieved May 22, 2022, from https://coactive.com/blog/how-to-acknowledge-others-in-coaching/

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