I find that I generally appreciate people's creations the more effort I think was required. To give hopefully an easy to understand example, if someone offers me a drink of tap water I would appreciate their hospitality where as if they offered me a piece of homemade pie I'd appreciate both the hospitality and the effort required to make the pie.

And so, when it comes to other creations, in particular creative creations, I generally find it hard to appreciate things that require almost no effort. I'm not saying simple art, especially of the type in a museum, has no place. There's a different type of appreciation for people that manage to get their simple art in a museum. Rather I'm talking more about friends, acquaintances, that make digital art that, sorry to use this phrase but I think it expresses my pov, art that they farted out. Nearly zero effort required (say 10-30 mins) and that anyone remotely competent in the same field could also fart out just as easily. They then go around on social media and are "Look at what I made! Look at what I made" and get lots of kudos online for things that are seriously low-effort.

To go back to the water vs pie example, the analogy is as though the person giving me tap water is asking for praise on how delicious they made that water even though they had nothing to do with it being delicious. Maybe they choose which glass to put it in? Where as the person making the homemade pie actually did need some skills and required effort to make a delicious homemade pie and so it's easy to have appreciation not only for receiving pie but for the skills and effort of the pie creation itself.

Is there a way for me to think about this kind of stuff that would help me feel as others seem to here so I can respond to them in a geninely positive way? To feel encouraging. To feel appreciation. Rather than what I typically feel which is a kind of disgust that someone is promoting their no-low effort digital scribbles? Note I don't generally mention my disgust. I either give a white-lie (that's great!, like, +1, heart) or say nothing. I'd prefer some kind change of heart on my part, some POV or philosophical position that helps me genuinely appreciate those creations.

  • 8
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because changing the way you think and feel is an intrapersonal problem, not an interpersonal one.
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jan 15, 2018 at 8:57
  • 1
    Yes, well, while I do see the point of this question being mostly INTRApersonal, there are aspects of "dealing with people the question author disagrees with".
    – Markino
    Jan 15, 2018 at 9:04
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    Why do you force yourself to appreciate something you don't want to? Jan 15, 2018 at 9:09
  • It would say this is 100% an interpersonal skill. People that manage to appear to genuinely appreciate others are generally people that others gravitate toward and want to be around. As for why I want to force myself to appreciate something I currently don't ... see previous sentence.
    – gman
    Jan 15, 2018 at 10:11
  • @gman You can make the same argument about "how can I be happier" or "how can I find clothes that look good", which are more obviously not interpersonal issues - things that indirectly lead to better interpersonal relations are not interpersonal issues. If you want help appearing more appreciative (regardless of how appreciative you are), that's something we can probably help with.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jan 15, 2018 at 11:39

4 Answers 4


As per your question:

Is there a way for me to think about this kind of stuff that would help me feel as others seem to here? Feel encouraging. Feel appreciation. Rather than what I typically feel which is a kind of disgust [...]

It depends, and I'll explain.

In my opinion, it all boils down to

  1. the current skill level of the "producer" of that piece of art
  2. what the "producer" of that piece of art wants to achieve

I am an apprentice commercial music DJ, attending a course from a local pretty well-known DJ and frequenting a local disco very much in order to have even more occasions to learn. I'm still on a very basic level, and each and every time I learn something new, I like to record it and let my friends or acquaintances listen to it: but it is not a way of saying "look how good I am", it's rather a way of saying "look, I learnt something new".

So, to bring back the aforementioned points 1. and 2.:

  1. my skill level is beginner
  2. what I want to achieve is "awareness that I learned a new thing" and not "showing off skills I don't have".

So, imo, if those you see presenting their work

  • are big-headed people speaking loud about skills they don't have, then my answer to your question is no, there's no way and you shouldn't even try, you'd just feed their big-headedness and make it grow even bigger; just remain silent, life itself will dramatically prove them their lack of skills as soon as their ego becomes big enough to start attempting a career that goes beyond showing off in front of friends and acquaintances;
  • are humble people aware of their lack of skills and just rejoicing in their learning effort, then my answer to your question is yes, a simple "good job, way to go, keep it up, it seems your hard work is starting to pay off" would suffice.
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    Thanks! This is a great POV. Assume that other person is learning and accomplished something new or reached a new level.
    – gman
    Jan 15, 2018 at 10:13

I don’ think there is any way to teach yourself to appreciate something that you do not respect, and I think the likelihood of teaching yourself to respect something, when at heart you don’t think the creator respects it, is low.

Rather than investing the time in making yourself less discriminating, can you try instead to prompt these creators to think more about their own work, or even reveal that there is more going on with it than you first appreciated, by responding with questions like

‘At first glance I’m really not getting a great deal from this piece, can you tell me more about what you were shooting for/get out of it yourself/what your inspiration was?’.

This approach has you offering to fulfil the role of a critical friend summed up by A John MacBeath of Cambridge University as:

The Critical Friend is a powerful idea, perhaps because it contains an inherent tension. Friends bring a high degree of unconditional positive regard. Critics are, at first sight at least, conditional, negative and intolerant of failure. Perhaps the critical friend comes closest to what might be regarded as 'true friendship' – a successful marrying of unconditional support and unconditional critique.

This can be a tough role, because we are often socialised to compliment our friends regardless of their achievement level,. For some of us though, and I feel your pain on this, it is really difficult to do and feels dishonest and unhelpful. The secret to making it work is judging how much ‘straight talking’ is appropriate in a given situation and ensuring that you are always encouraging rather than only critical. You might end up with a reputation for being challenging, but honest.

It isn’t for everybody.

Anyway, with this approach you may discover, either that they were striving towards some artistic goal, or that they were just making pretty patterns. If pretty patterns were the aim (and pretty patterns are a nice thing that can be valid to spend time on) then it should perfectly acceptable to close the conversation on a piece you don’t appreciate with a comment along the lines of ‘Not really my aesthetic, but cool hobby’ or something equally non-committal.

If neither response is appreciated by the creator, its also likely that they stop copying you in on their daubings.


I would say that any recipient's judgement of how much effort went into something can often be flawed.

In your example of someone offering you pie that was homemade versus pie that was bought from a store - both are genuine offers of hospitality, and in both cases you could say that the person welcomed you and offered you something that they had. I would want to show equal appreciation.

Continuing this idea - two people may both bake you a pie. One person is a skilled baker and to them this is no big deal. Another is not very skilled at baking, has to follow a recipe line by line, and this is a very big deal for them. The end product is the same. How to you judge the effort?

So when it comes to art, which is what your analogy was all about - do you really know how much 'effort' went into creating something? Okay, so 'digital art' is often snubbed by 'real' artists, but is the artist being any less creative or spending less time? To many people who are not skilled with a paintbrush, digital art tools are the only way they can express themselves artistically. Plus in any kind of art, the finished product is meant to seem more free-form than it actually is. For every 3-minute pop song you hear on the radio there have been countless hours of writing, rehearsal, recording and mixing, but in the end the listener just judges it on a few standard metrics.

I do agree that it doesn't help some people to over-praise. By telling a terrible artist that they are amazing might lead them to do something crazy like give up a decent career to pursue something that will lead to nought. However, if these people mean something to you - they are friends, or colleages/college mates that you want to keep as friends - then there is no need to be harsh. If you are the great art critic then find something worthy of praise within their work and tell them that aspect is good.


I think the issue here is that you conflate effort with time. If someone gives up their time for you, that is a serious investment and deserves praise almost all the time, regardless of the result. For example, if you had a friend produce a piece of art that was a bit 'meh' to most people, but that took 60hrs+ to create then I imagine you would feel more inclined to compliment it than if you knew it took someone 20 minutes, because this makes it seem like the person didn't try.

The difference is though that time invested can be related to skill level. It's actually a common problem in freelance work. If a better worker can produce the same amount of work in half the time, how do they stay competitive in an hourly billing environment when at the start all a client sees is £/hr and will probably consider you too expensive?

My rather extreme example would be comparing Usain Bolt to Chris Froome. Both are gods in their own athletic field (the 100m sprint, and the Grand Tours of road cycling).

Bolt ran the 100m sprint in 9.58 seconds and holds the world record. An amazing achievement. Froome won the Tour de France last year in 86h 20' 55" and looks like he may go on to be one of the greatest grand tour riders of all time.

Both amazing achievements that took training and dedication to get to the top of their field. Is Bolt less worth because his event was over in, literally, seconds?

Ultimately it's not how much effort you think they put in for a particular art work but how much effort they had to put in over all the years before to get to this stage.

In your example, the pie isn't just more worthy of praise because of the immediate time investment, but the time investment beforehand of learning how to bake in the first place, and the numerous failed pie attempts that probably came before.

When it comes to art, consider if you can do the same, and how much effort the person had to put in over the years to reach that stage. If you are naturally gifted, fair enough, but remember someone may have self taught from nothing and so have a relatively low ranking in your mind despite years of effort. That cumulative effort is indeed worthy of praise and reward.

  • I appreciate your answer and I believe everything you said but you need to take my word for it and accept the premise that the creations in question required little to no effort nor did they require lots of steep or long learning. They're banged out in mass like a kid drawing happy faces and asking for praise for each minor variation. In some cases maybe that's worthy of praise for the effort or the effort to take to get to that skill level but not in this case.
    – gman
    Jan 15, 2018 at 13:36
  • Fair enough! This is your situation and I can't really comment. I'll leave this answer up though for others who may stumble upon it from a different point of view.
    – Smeato
    Jan 15, 2018 at 14:37

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