Expressing appreciation for others can be a puzzling task, even for those who are naturally caring. The desire may be there, but its application can be tricky.
Although we may all share the same basic longing to be seen and valued, everyone has their unique preferences. Different gestures speak to different people, so acknowledging someone else’s efforts in a way they will receive it can be challenging.
In this article, I'll address what it means to appreciate someone, the benefits of doing so, and practical suggestions for how to start expressing gratitude toward the people you cherish most.
What does it mean to appreciate someone?
To appreciate someone means to hold them in great esteem, often as a result of some admirable effort. Showing appreciation for someone means not only recognizing their value but openly communicating it to them. It’s less of a thought and more of an action.
Frequently expressing appreciation for a colleague, partner, friend, or family member may not always seem necessary, but its effect may be greater than you think. A recent USC study shows that many people feel underappreciated at work, and this is likely true of many people’s personal lives. Small, simple acts of gratitude have the power to change someone’s day and strengthen relationships of any kind.
Why is it important to show others appreciation?
Millions of years ago, acknowledging someone’s value and welcoming them into our circle was a matter of life and death; it ensured their very survival. Although showing appreciation for others has lower stakes these days, it still has a significant impact on them.
According to a 2012 survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), employees who felt valued in the workplace reported higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and motivation than those who felt underappreciated by their employers. They also reported better mental and physical health. Expressing appreciation for others has lucrative benefits in the workplace as well: High morale yields high productivity.
Appreciating people can shape personal relationships, too. A 2014 study revealed that expressing gratitude toward an acquaintance makes them more likely to pursue a long-term relationship with you. It’s a quick, easy way to build trust, loyalty, and community. Who wouldn’t want to develop ties with someone whose initial impression was appreciative and kind?
When people feel unappreciated, other emotions tend to emerge. Feelings of resentment, neglect, distress and discouragement begin to fester. These negative emotions often lead to severe consequences, such as broken relationships or career changes.
Undervaluing others in an extreme way, especially over the course of time, can evolve into a form of emotional or even physical abuse.
5 ways to show others appreciation
One of the most incredible characteristics of humanity is our diversity. While we have a lot in common, our individual experiences set us apart and give us distinct stories, perspectives, and preferences. It’s probably easiest to show someone appreciation when you really know them, but even if you don’t, this list of suggestions is sure to soften anyone’s heart.
1. Put yourself in their shoes
You may find The Golden Rule - “treat others the way you wish to be treated” - a bit cliché, but when it comes to appreciating others, this is the foundation.
If you have no clue what to do for someone else, start by asking yourself this question: What would make you feel cherished? Based on your knowledge of the person you want to praise or thank, would they enjoy a similar gesture?
For example, imagine you want to show appreciation to your spouse, who selflessly cared for you while you were sick. You may not know what gesture best suits the occasion at first, so you decide to ask yourself what would make you feel valued in the same situation. After considering the tasks of a caretaker - preparing meals, administering medications, maintaining household chores, etc. - you conclude you would feel pretty exhausted. You decide to offer your spouse a massage, and they are thrilled.
This exercise - attempting to understand another person’s point-of-view - can be extremely helpful in selecting the perfect act of appreciation.
2. Discover their love languages
In college, someone gifted me a book titled The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, and it changed my life.
In a nutshell, Gary Chapman, the author, proposes the idea that there are five major ways of expressing love:
- Physical touch.
- Quality time.
- Words of affirmation.
- Acts of service.
He claims that most people have a primary and secondary preference for receiving love.
It was a short read, but it was packed with useful information. It gave me the language I desperately needed to communicate what made me feel treasured, and it showed me how to do the same for a romantic partner.
Over time, I realized that inquiring about the love languages of others - not just romantic partners - improved my relationships with them, too. I discovered that my mom values physical touch and quality time. When I want to show her that I appreciate her, I know the best way to do that is by giving her a hug or chatting over a glass of wine on the back patio.
If you’re close enough with someone, you could ask them to take this free quiz to help determine their primary love language. If not, though, making simple observations or asking someone else in their life for information can be very insightful.
3. Say thank you (and mean it)
One of the most effortless ways to show someone appreciation is to say thank you, and mean it. Whether you are conveying your gratitude through written or verbal communication, it’s important to be specific about what, exactly, you are thankful for. According to the Greater Good Science Center, specificity is key to cultivating gratitude in one’s own heart.
Personally, I believe it also exhibits a deeper, more genuine level of care toward a person.
When my girlfriend and I first began dating, we developed a nightly habit of playing “The Appreciation Game”. This so-called “game” was really just a conversation. We took turns expressing gratitude for at least four specific acts the other person did for them that day. Then we wrapped things up by sharing one character trait we admired about each other (independent of the previously named acts).
Saying “thank you” to each other in such an intentional way, even if we had already done it earlier that day, created a meaningful bonding experience every evening. Expressing regular gratitude for one another continues to be one of the pillars of our relationship.
4. Celebrate their victories
When someone in your life achieves a noteworthy accomplishment, consider it cause for celebration. Offering to take them out for a meal, a drink, or a coffee shows that you appreciate their hard work and care about their success. If a group setting seems more fitting, you might arrange a gathering at work, at home, or at a venue.
If you’re an employer who wishes to show appreciation to your employees, consider distributing raises or bonuses. Studies show that performance-related increases in pay are effective in generating positive feelings about work.
I’ve had many considerate, complimentary bosses who went out of their way to thank me for a job well done in various ways. But in the workplace, nothing says “I appreciate you” like generous compensation for your time and expertise.
5. Acknowledge them publicly
One should never underestimate the power of a good connection. Publicly expressing appreciation for someone may feel pointless or even a bit contrived, but in reality, it’s the opposite. A 2015 survey suggests that 85% of critical jobs are filled by networking. This astonishing number stresses the importance of providing solid references for those we care about.
Showing a person we appreciate them in the public eye may have other promising implications for their life that extend beyond work. A 2015 survey reveals that more young adults meet their significant others through mutual friends than by any other means, including dating apps. (I can attest to this!) Apparently, there is real merit in hyping your friends up.
Public praise can be informal and occur virtually anywhere, so don’t hesitate to construct the social media post, write the email, or make the introduction.
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There are countless ways to show someone you appreciate them. Taking a moment of your time to share a word of gratitude can have a lasting impact on a person and your relationship with them. It’s never too late to begin showing others appreciation, so consider which of the above suggestions you can implement today.
What makes you feel appreciated? How do you prefer to show appreciation to the people in your life? Leave a comment below and let us know!