Expressing gratitude and appreciation is a wonderful gift we can give to those who contribute to and enrich our lives.
Too often, though, our simple expressions don't actually communicate much, other than we appreciate something.
"Wow, you're great."
"That was awesome!"
Sometimes this feels complete, but what about when you have something really meaningful to share? Maybe they really made a difference for you. Or you really want them to feel the love of your gratitude.
What Did They Do?
The first component of a heartfelt appreciation is letting them know what exactly they did that you appreciate.
For example, "Thank you for speaking up for me at the dinner party." Of course, you can make this more casual, like "Thanks for your help back there," so long as they know what you're referring to.
Naming the action gives them clarity in what went well.
The more specific, the better. For instance, this example could be more specific: "Thank you for interrupting their questions with a thoughtful call for compassion toward me."
A quick "thank you" is short and sweet, but is conclusive. Letting yourself finish the sentence with what it is that you are thanking them for opens up space for more connection.
Additionally, appreciations don't need to be limited to only what someone does directly for you. If someone does anything that has impacted you positively, then a heartfelt appreciation is a wonderful gift in return.
How Did it Impact You?
If you want to express your gratitude with more connection and meaning, share how the action impacted you.
How did you feel before, during, or after the action? What needs of yours were unmet before or got met during or after?
To add to the example, "Thank you for interrupting their questions with a thoughtful call for compassion toward me... I felt overwhelmed by their relentless inquiry and was relieved to have some support and space."
Sharing how their actions impacted you offers them a gift of self-reflection.
They get to learn how their actions impacted another, and because it was a positive effect, they get the opportunity to celebrate how they've shown up for someone. It's invaluable to receive feedback, both positive and negative.
Why is it Meaningful for You?
Sharing the action and impact is already generous. You're showing them a part of you, entrusting them with a piece of your experience.
If you are feeling safe, resourced, and want to connect more deeply with yourself and them, you can add context to why the impact is meaningful for you.
With our example, "Thank you for interrupting their questions with a thoughtful call for compassion toward me. I felt overwhelmed by their relentless inquiry and was relieved to have some support and space... I've experienced this treatment so many times that I often avoid such parties now. Your support has given me an extra boost of confidence that I'm not alone."
Whoa. That's pretty vulnerable, right?
Offering personal context is a bid toward emotional intimacy.
Intimacy (into-me-see) is giving someone a window into your inner world. It's trusting them to gently witness a tender, vulnerable part of you. When this is met with compassion and care, the relationship bond deepens.
When Ready, Take the Risk
Giving any kind of feedback can be scary because it's vulnerable. You get to decide how vulnerable you want to make your appreciation connection.
Maybe you can see how this could get getting deeper. If you've named the action, shared the impact, and offered context, you've given them a precious glimpse into your heart.
Essentially you're saying, "Hey, I see you, and I appreciate you. Here's some of me for you to see, too."
With a colleague, maybe you want to keep it distant and only name the specific action, which gives them valuable feedback. Or maybe you want to deepen your relationship with them but not too fast, so you share the impact.
With a close friend, maybe you want to invite them to explore a whole cavern of your heart, sharing layer upon layer of context for why this has touched you so deeply.
Expressions of appreciation, gratitude, and love are bids for connection. You reach out with an invitation to connect, offering a glimpse of yourself, and it's a gift.
Next time someone does something casual that you appreciate (like holding open the door for you,) try naming the action as part of your appreciation. It may seem strange at first, but check to see how they respond and how you feel afterward.
Consider some appreciations you'd like to give that invites deeper connection. Answer the questions in a journal as a way to express and process before sharing. Then decide what you wish to communicate to them and when.
If you struggle with giving people negative feedback (letting them know something they did have a hurtful impact), practicing giving positive feedback in the form of heartfelt appreciations is a beautiful way to get more comfortable with the feedback process.