How to Be Appreciated, and not Flattered

“The difference between appreciation and flattery?  That is simple. One comes from the heart out, the other from the teeth out.  One is unselfish; the other selfish.  One is universally admired; the other universally condemned”.

 Dale Carnegie

When I was Chief of Staff in my hospital, we had an unusual run of bad luck with many of the mostly older doctors dying for one reason or another.  I remember going to funerals, memorials and wakes, listening to eulogies.  They all were very touching.  Some teary, some humorous, some just plain.  Many from memory, some read from the piece of paper with or without slide pictures from the celebrated past.  All were describing, how good a person he or she was and how much they were going to be missed.  At the door there was usually a memorial book, but one can only find names of visitors there.  Another good opportunity was missed.

Then it dawned on me.  How wonderful would it be for the honored person to hear all these nice things said about him before his death?  I know, he is over there, listening to all these speeches from above, but, well, it’s still not the same.  I know for myself, I would appreciate knowing ahead of time how much, if any, I am being appreciated.

My moment came when I was preparing for retirement.  Two farewell parties were organized for me; one by the operating room staff, the second by my office.  After discussion with Bonnie, I bought a red book with empty pages designed for handwritten notes.  On the front cover there was a place for a picture and I inserted my picture from the end of surgical residency, right before the start of my private practice.  It was the symbolic beginning and end of my medical career in this country.  I left this red book at a quiet place close to the entrance and gently asked participants “to sign it”.  I was planning for notes to be written on the right side and the left one was intended for the person’s picture, which I took at the party.

The response was stunning and overwhelming for me.  All the pages were filled.  But when I came home, I didn’t have the courage to look at what was written.  I was waiting for a proper moment.  After several weeks, one morning, when there wasn’t anybody in my house, in a quiet room, with Bentley at my side, I started reading.  It was an out of this life experience for me.  There were good, usual notes and there were the special ones.  I’ve spent 30 years working in this medical community and there were a few people, who were with me all this time.  They were writing about things, which happened a long time ago.  They were writing of things I long have forgotten.  They recollected situations I’ve never known existed.  They reminded me of conversations held a long time ago and how our talks had influenced their lives.  I have to admit, I had tears in my eyes.

This book is my treasure.  The only person I share it with is my wife.  I will read it in difficult times.

                                                                                                                                                                                               The red book


  • Dr. Niesluchowski – What a poignant story. Thank you for sharing it. Since I did not have the pleasure to attend those retirement parties, I will take my opportunity here. As a nurse at St. John’s Regional Medical Center, I had the privilege to work along side of you for many years.. You were always collaborative and respectful of others. As a nurse manager, I appreciated your responsiveness to the needs of patients as well as staff.
    On Sunday October 30, 2005, you were part of a group of consultants from numerous specialties called that day to care for my critically ill husband. You all worked feverishly to save his life. Although you did the best that you could, the efforts were unsuccessful. I remember when I returned to work some months later, we saw each other in the hospital lobby and your gave me a hug and expressed how sorry you were for my loss. That small gesture meant so much to me.
    Our paths crossed again several months later when I became your patient during the course of my cancer treatment. In my extreme grief and disbelief during these two life-altering events, I am not certain that I thanked you sufficiently for your kindness and caring. I will do that now. Thank you for being such a wonderful colleague as well as a compassionate care-giver.
    Janet Leifur

    • Janet,
      Thanks for your generous comments. I too was seeing working with you as special. Caring for both of you and your husband was a privilege and remember this very well. I am extremely happy to see, how well are you doing. I was receiving frequent updates of your health status from Tanya B. fro our cath lab. And your posts on FB are always so cheerful! All the best to you and your family.
      By the way – do you still have tags JL RN ?


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