Expressing approval vs expressing appreciation

Mary Schultz

From the archives: Posted on 30th March, 1996

A poster asks:

“Or are you meaning that expressions of approval and appreciation are inherently, necessarily, coercive and manipulative?”

Expressions of approval are inherently, necessarily, coercive and manipulative because one approves things according to set standards – your belief is that the standards should be met, and your goal is to get someone to meet them (whether by force, coercion or manipulation is just a question of degree). The approval (in whatever form: rewards, stickers, love, attention, etc.) is designed to manipulate others into meeting your standard.

“I approve X” necessarily puts you into the position of someone who knows and can (or wants to) enforce a particular standard.

Expressions of appreciation are not inherently, necessarily coercive and manipulative. “I appreciate X” may simply be an expression of an inner feeling. OTOH, I suspect you are more likely to so say “I appreciate that you have been such a good helper in the kitchen,” which conflates an inner feeling (your feeling of appreciation for some help) and coercion to a particular standard (one should be a good helper).

Are you sure that you are not actually Sarah, writing as a devil’s advocate? It’s hard to believe you are real.

Mary Schulz, 1996, ‘Expressing approval vs expressing appreciation’,