What’s the absolutely easiest way to contribute ideas to a community while boosting someone else’s business at the same time?

Use your platform to Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify the work of companies and individuals that you value.

You’d be surprised to realize just how often you’ll find yourself in a position to use your platform — your business blog, your participation in a conference, the examples you use in a sales presentation, your twitter feed — to shed some light on a business or an idea that you admire.

Why not use every chance you have to be generative?

I usually get pretty excited when I notice that practices I’ve imagined in theory, or ideas I haven’t even thought of, are being made real by the way someone is conducting their business.

For example, I love the way that Etsy encourages mutual-mentoring relationships between individual sellers on their website by helping them connect with each other in teams. This is a great way to build every seller’s individual business while transforming the Etsy platform into a ‘community of commerce’.

I love to point out these practices as a way to show people that they exist, that they really work, but I’ve learned that simply telling people that a practice exists or that a business is doing interesting things is usually not enough to do anything more than pique someone’s interest.

The Easiest Three-Step Process For Creating Opportunity

If you want to share the idea so that it might create opportunities for the people you’re telling and the businesses you’re talking about, you have to use a three step process:

    1. Acknowledge
    2. Affirm, and
    3. Amplify

1. Acknowledge:

Tell the business and the world what you admire about what the business is doing.

Don’t just say they’re interesting. Get specific:

When we state clearly and specifically what we appreciate, we give  listeners a motive for paying attention. And, we send valuable feedback to the company whose work we’re calling attention to.

2. Affirm:

Tell the world why this particular action matters.

Explain why it’s so positive and inspiring. Explain the impact that it has on your business, your thinking, your customers, or your network. Add thick value to your acknowledgment by offering at least one ‘why’. The ‘why’ pushes an idea deeper into someone’s attention.

3. Amplify:

Tell the world how this information could be useful to them, and why they might want to try it or to share it themselves.  

Offer people reasons to think of the business and its practices as something more than ‘interesting’ by showing them ways they might apply it to their own work.

When people think an idea is useful to them, they get more invested in it. They are more likely to experiment with the idea themselves and spread it by putting it into action. And they are more likely to share the idea with others, amplifying it out into their network.

How the Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify practice works in real life

Last week at the Positive Business Conference I used the Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify practice, and I was rather tickled by the results.

The SetUp:

neg gen

My colleague Shirli Kopelman has just published a book on Negotiating Genuinely, where she explains how to link your authentic self and your emotions to how you negotiate with others.

On the Friday of the Conference, the HBR Blog published a post on how to Make Your Emotions Work For You in Negotiations. The next day, at a plenary session where we were recapping what we learned at the Positive Business Conference, I raised my hand for the mic.

I used the 3 step Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify practice to see if I could generate some opportunities for Shirli, her ideas, and the conference attendees.

1. Acknowledge: I told the audience about Shirli’s HBR post and described what it covered that was relevant to positive business practice.

2. Affirm: I explained why I found the article useful— it’s a five point summary of how to transform emotions authentically so that you can be truthful and open during a negotiation.

I used “the transitive property of useful information” (i.e., ‘This helped me, it might help you’) to suggest that the article was likely to be valuable to the audience.

=> Most shout-out’s stop here — they use the clout of the person + situation to draw ‘more’ attention to the idea. But to make this shout out generative, I had to authorize myself to take the next step. I had to amplify the value of what I was sharing by explaining why it was meaningful to me.

3. Amplify: To amplify, I explained what I personally and specifically had learned from the article.

(E.g., Steps 4 and 5 help you turn an emotional reframing into actual behaviors. Once you ‘behave’ the new emotion, to lock it into your own viewpoint and you display it to your negotiating partners, signaling to them that you are adjusting your course. These two steps are hard because you actually have to let people see that you are changing your mind in public, which is akin to suggesting that you were wrong in the first place. Hello, vulnerability?)

With this step, I extended the usefulness of the blog post for the audience by showing them one way to link the information to a positive change in their own practice. I did a little bit of the work of applying the information myself, drawing on my own academic expertise to add some spin to Shirli’s original idea and to make it a little more valuable. (This was one way I activated ‘compounded gifting’.)

Here was the real kicker though — I amplified the value of Shirli’s post a second way, by suggesting to the audience how they could use the blog post as a tool to promote themselves.

Yes, dear reader, I went straight to the WIIFM motivation.  I mentioned that they could share a bit of their conference learning with their own audiences, by forwarding Shirli’s HBR post to three colleagues.

Giving someone a gift they can use themselves, that also carries your message(s) with it, is a double whammy of compounded gifting.

Finally, bringing it full circle, I knew that if the Positive Business Conference attendees went to the HBR site and forwarded the post to colleagues, their sharing behavior would boost traffic to Shirli’s post. This is a great way to call HBR’s attention to the value of the ideas in Negotiating Genuinely, maybe (just maybe) leading to another post.

Using the Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify practice,  I was able to set some ideas in motion that may have influenced attendees’ awareness, and helped to get my colleague’s work the attention I believe it deserves.

Why it’s a Triple Whammy:

When you Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify what you admire, the positive value moves forward in three patterns:

1.  The positivity loops back to the person or business you are calling out. Your public acknowledgment helps to make whatever they are doing more real and meaningful, because you are telling them it matters. They matter. That might stoke them to keep going.

2. The Positivity ripples forward, into your network. Your colleagues and partners are offered something they can use to generate opportunity for themselves, and they get something they might share forward with others.

3. You get to draw attention to something that matters to your business.

This sharing not only has practical applications, it has soulful ones: It helps to create a sense of abundant good.


Did the Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify practice work?

I’m not going to take much credit for this… but… check out the screenshot, the upper left side, right under “Most Popular”:

affirm, acknowledge, amplify, generative, practice

As Shirli later explained:

Thank you for the shout out this morning. I wouldn’t have even known to ask you, or anyone, to shout out and share to generate clicks. I was so thrilled to get an HBR hit, I never thought about what one does — other than celebrate — once that happens.  I’m attributing this incredible success to your mobilizing the positive business conference community!

To Be Sure….

 It’s not like I’m some ‘wonder-person’ for doing this kind of sharing.

I genuinely believe in Shirli’s work and in the promise it holds as positive business practice.  I find that it’s pretty easy to talk about someone else’s work– it’s easier to be a hype girl than it is to toot your own horn.

And it’s not like this practice is so crazy.

Many of us already Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify, because it’s the easiest way to create opportunities for your whole network.

Every time we write business cases and white papers, write blog posts and press releases, and we tweet links to our networks, we get the chance to be choosy about whose work we draw attention to. We get the opportunity to boost someone else’s great idea or great practice, and send more support out into our networks.

  • Acknowledge what’s good that is already there, on someone’s work or business.
  • Affirm the specific great thing to lock attention on the right part of the practice. Then,
  • Amplify the idea, by adding a little of your own insight to show specifically how the idea can create value for the people you are sharing it with.

By being deliberate when we Acknowledge, Affirm, and Amplify, we can nourish the changes we want to see in our business world.


“An Upward Spiral” by Gary Denness