How to Express Appreciation

Do you tell others often how much you appreciate them? Does it come across sincere?

I struggled in the past with expressing appreciation. Especially with employees, but also with loved ones, colleagues and even strangers.

I aim to get things done. Once I complete a task or project, I’m onto the next one. I used to forget to stop and appreciate the people and things around me. To take a moment and express a heartfelt thanks.

And even when I did, it often felt empty. I knew I needed to appreciate my employees, and I did. But I didn’t do it effectively. I just said “thanks”, and left it at that.

For my Leadership Asheville class, we each had to choose a personal development goal. I chose to learn how to appreciate and encourage others more. Read on for some of the lessons I learned over the past year.

Learn to Appreciate

Everything I read indicated appreciation is both an attitude and a skill. Empty platitudes are meaningless. Therefore, before you can learn how to express appreciation toward others, you must first learn how to feel appreciative.

Take these steps to learn to feel appreciation:

  1. Appreciate the world around you
    Take a few moments in each day to notice useful or beautiful things around you and smile at them. Imagine what the world would be like without them. Take a deep breath and be thankful for their existence (and keep smiling!).
  2. Express your appreciation of the world to others 
    Tell a friend how much you appreciate breezy spring days or hot tea in the morning. Learn to verbalize your appreciation.
  3. Practice appreciating yourself
    At the end of each day, ask yourself “What can I truly be proud of today?”. Say it aloud or write it down. Practice recognizing in yourself the type of things you want to appreciate in others.
  4. Express appreciation to others
    Tell people that you appreciate them and why. If it feels strange, start with people where you have few power dynamics or attachments, then move onto employees, colleagues and loved ones.

Express Your Appreciation

Learning how to appreciate others is only a first step. Sincere appreciation gets amplified when you express it in certain ways.

When expressing appreciation, try to:

  • Make “I” Statements
    Being appreciative is about how you feel, not the other person.  Thus, avoid “you” statements and focus on “I” statements. Tell them how you feel, not what they are. Don’t say “You are so organized”, say “I appreciate you being so organized because it means I can focus on the bigger picture.”
  • Be Specific
    Avoid vague or broad  language. Be specific in what you appreciate. Don’t say “You’re awesome”, say “I appreciate that you’re so punctual.”
  • Recognize the Exceptions
    When someone does something that requires extra effort or under touch circumstances, recognize them for it. Say “I know we had a tight deadline for the proposal, but I appreciate you putting in the extra effort to make sure it got out on time.”
  • Appreciate the Unexceptional
    But appreciate the unexceptional too. Notice when people do things right, and thank them for it. Too often we pay attention only when things go wrong. Be thankful for the good things as well. Imagine what life would be if they weren’t there.
  • Describe Consequences
    When appreciating something someone did, explain not only how you feel, but the positive consequences of what they did on your life. Recognize their part in your life.  For instance, “Thanks for editing my application, your input will help me get approved.”

A sentence structure that can be useful to express appreciation is:

  • When I saw/heard/experienced…
  • I felt…
  • Because…

For instance: When I saw you speaking on stage, I felt proud of you because I know how hard it was for you to overcome your fear of speaking.

For more ideas, check out Awesome Phrases to Express Your Appreciation for Others and Yourself and Thank You Phrases for the Workplace.

Consider the Medium

Finally, consider the method of expressing your appreciation. For the deepest appreciation, consider a handwritten note.

But don’t wait to write a note. Express your appreciation via phone, text or e-mail. Get creative and leave a cupcake on their desk with a note of appreciation or use magnetic poetry to write a note of appreciation to your spouse on your refrigerator.

Exercises

Want to learn to appreciate others more?

My personal development plan involved meeting three milestones, with each milestone involving three specific steps to take. Here was my personal development plan for my class:

  1. Learn appreciation & encouragement techniques
    • Find 5 articles on appreciation
    • Read & summarize these articles
    • Write an article on the techniques & approaches toward appreciation
  2. Practice techniques with people I have no power or work dynamics with
    • Compliment 5 people on a job well done
    • Tell 5 people why you appreciate them
    • Encourage 5 people to take an action
  3. Practice techniques with people I have power or work dynamics with
    • Compliment 5 people on a job well done
    • Tell 5 people why you appreciate them
    • Encourage 5 people to take an action

As you can see, I didn’t exactly do everything in order. And some tasks I’m still working on. But I’ve made great progress!

Further Reading

Want to learn more? Check out these articles on appreciation:

How do you express your appreciation to others?

4 comments

  1. Quicker says:

    I am doing a study on Appreciation as part of my course project. Could you please share some more sources where I can find relevant data on appreciation?

    1. trevor says:

      Sorry, that’s about all I have right now. As I find others, I’ll post them in a followup reply. Good luck with your study and please post a link to it here when you’re done.

  2. Joanne Cipressi says:

    Trevor,

    I love how you breakdown the how to express appreciation to others. I think expressing the consequences of their actions or words can do so much to build up and to inspire deeper relationships. When people can see the good they are contributing to, this greatly motivates them to do more.

    Also, I wanted to thank you for linking to my blog. You must have a pretty great following here because there were many click from your site to mine. It is a pleasure to connect with like minded people. Continue enjoying your journey.

    Joanne

    1. trevor says:

      Joanne,

      You’re welcome. Thanks for writing your article. It served as a resource for mine and helped me in my process. Cheers!

      Trevor

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