When I recently returned home from the Radical Honesty Summer Retreat at our cabins in the woods of Finland, I was met by a stack of unread Amsterdam newspapers. This morning, I stood in my kitchen eating my muesli while reading through them. One article involved the singer Eddie Vedder (of the band Pearl Jam) who had recently performed in Amsterdam. While I know the name of his band, I can’t say I’m a fan of Mr. Vedder’s as I can’t even name any of his songs. Still, I was quite touched while reading a story that involved him.
During his recent Amsterdam concert, Vedder told the crowd about how, after a previous performance he gave in the Netherlands 25 years earlier, he’d found himself late at night, still at the concert venue with no idea of how to get back to his hotel. A young woman offered to ride him to his hotel on the back of her bike (as we like to do here in Holland). And since it was chilly, she also gave him a plaid flannel shirt to wear. When they arrived at the hotel, the woman told Vedder he could keep the shirt and then she biked off into the night.
Vedder told the crowd that he had kept that shirt for years and had often thought fondly of that woman who had given him the ride on the back of his bike. Now he wanted to thank her. So he asked the thousands in the crowd if the woman from 25 years earlier was among them. The response from the crowd was silence. She wasn’t there. And then the concert continued.
A journalist from the Amsterdam newspaper then spread the word about this story and within hours, the woman in question was located. This news quickly reached Mr. Vedder whose manager invited the woman and her husband to come to his concert that night in Brussels. She and her husband attended that show and afterward went backstage and chatted with Mr. Vedder. He thanked her for the bike ride and he thanked her for the flannel shirt from 25 years earlier. They chatted about that night and about other things.
Then, as the woman and her husband were departing the concert venue, she had a huge smile on her face. Her husband asked her what was up. She responded, “Nothing. I’m a happy girl. He just wanted to say thanks.”
That’s where the newspaper article ended. As I stood in my kitchen and read that last sentence, I began to tear up. Something arose in me about the story of someone who, for 25 years, had wanted to express gratitude, took measures to make it happen and when they were finally face to face, he told her what he appreciated her for doing.
I stood there in my kitchen with wetness in my eyes and enjoyed telling myself, “It’s never to too late to express appreciation.”
When people first hear about Radical Honesty, a common initial reaction is picturing a scenario of someone walking down the street spewing an unrestrained stream of chatter like: “You’re ugly! And dude, you’re a fat slob. Yuck, who dressed you? Get out of my way!”
I don’t experience RH that way at all.
The practice of RH is indeed about expressing whatever important information is on your mind, particularly if it’s an emotion that we’re often told to not express (e.g. anger, sadness, attraction, etc.). Yet, for many of us, appreciation—especially being specific about what we’re grateful for the other person did or said—is something we’re not so practiced at doing. And we sometimes use some of the same excuses to not express appreciation as we do to not express anger (e.g. “It happened so long ago.” “It’s such a minor thing, not worth mentioning.” etc.). We also often withhold expressing appreciation since we presume the other person already knows we appreciate them for doing or saying something. Yet, if we don’t tell them, most likely they won’t know.
Expressing appreciation gets easier the more you do it. You can notice more quickly in the moment when you’re feeling gratitude towards someone else. By expressing appreciation more often, we can relate to others on a deeper level.
I invite you to take a moment and think about something you appreciate someone else doing or saying. Have you expressed that to them? If not, then I imagine you both would benefit by doing so. Even if it happened “long ago,” I judge it’s never too late to express appreciation.
P.S. I just sent an email to the writer of the newspaper article expressing appreciation to her for having written it.