If all you do is say the words “thank you”, you may not be getting your feelings of appreciation across. It’s not that these words are not important, but because they’ve been said over and over, the words by themselves lack weight and substance.
Ever since we were young, we were told to say “thank you” to those who showed us kindness—from the stranger who held the door open for us without being asked, to the family members who took care of us and supported us through thick and thin.
We practiced saying our “thank you’s” diligently until these words became almost second nature—a reflex without much conscious effort.
So if you truly want to express gratitude for those around you, you’re going to have to do a lot more than just say the words “thank you”.
And I have some ideas that will help you show your appreciation in this post.
But first, why is it important to show gratitude to others? How does gratitude make our lives better?
How I Came to Appreciate the Power of Gratitude in Our Relationships
I first learned about the power of gratitude in a relationship from the wisest woman I know—my mother.
One day I came home crying about a silly argument I had with a friend at school. After consoling me for a while, she told me this:
“Next time you have an argument and feel sad, remember how good your friend is to you at other times. Instead of being mad, you will feel grateful for having her in your life.”
Although I didn’t completely understand at first, I took her advice.
The next time I had an argument with this friend, I tried to think of all the kind things she had said and done. As I recalled these memories in my mind, I could feel the anger that was bubbling inside of me start to dissipate. Like my mother had promised, I began to feel thankful to have her as a friend.
Then I did something I wasn’t used to doing up until that point—I apologized. She did too. And we moved on.
That was when I realized the simple act of having more gratitude can help ease tension and diffuse conflicts in a relationship. Gratitude strengthens the bond we have with the people around us. Gratitude is the glue that keeps us together.
Gratitude is the glue of all human relationships. Not only is it an essential ingredient in a lasting marriage, but outside the romantic context, it’s also an important component of successful work teams and fulfilling friendships.
When your heart is filled with gratitude, you learn to “overlook” imperfections in another person. You become more patient, accepting, and kind. And when you express your gratitude for someone, you become closer, more connected to that person. Your relationship deepens.
And we know, from Harvard’s long-standing study of adult development, that the quality of our relationships has a tremendous effect on our health and happiness.
Plus, everyone loves the feeling of being appreciated. When you give gratitude, you make everyone happy.
Now you know why we need to have more gratitude in our relationships, let’s look at how we can express that gratitude.
25 Ideas on How to Express Gratitude for Everyone in Your Life
1. Let Them Choose
Do you “debate” about things like which restaurant to go to on your next date night, which movie you should watch on Netflix, or what pizza toppings you should order? Let them make all the choices one night, even if some of them make you raise your eyebrows. It’s a simple and fun way to show your appreciation.
2. Take Away an Unpleasant Chore
Make them go “yes!!!” by taking away a chore that they hate doing—like filing their taxes (wink to my husband).
3. Seek Their Input in Something Important to You
When you ask for someone’s input in an important decision, it says a lot about how much you value and respect them. It’s one of the highest forms of appreciation!
4. Show Interest in Something They’re Passionate About
Is there something your partner is passionate about? Learn more about it and make a sincere effort to understand its appeal. Taking an interest in your partner’s interest is one of the best ways to show that you care.
5. Make Their Favourite Food
You can’t go wrong with food when it comes to showing appreciation. Fill their tummy with their favourite dish and a big dollop of sweet gratitude.
6. Surprise Them
Show your gratitude with simple surprises like leaving a note on their pillow, hiding a bag of their favourite snack in their work bag, or giving them a small gift. Surprises shouldn’t be reserved just for holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays. Every day is an opportunity to create little surprises that say “I’m thinking of you and I appreciate you”.
Listen with the intent to only listen, not to make a judgment, insert your opinions, or offer a solution right away. And remember to ask questions. It’ll convey that you’re engaged in what they’re saying.
How to Show Appreciation to Your Parents
I would thank you from the bottom of my heart, but for you my heart has no bottom. —Author unknown
8. Tell Them What You Learned From Them
Say “thank you” to your parents with a heartfelt message about the valuable lessons you learned from them. They will be so proud to know that they’ve done a good job passing down their wisdom.
9. Spend Time With Them Doing Something They Enjoy
The best gift you can give to your parents is the gift of time. Whether it’s gardening, shopping, or playing golf, show your parents your gratitude by spending time with them in their element.
10. Give the Gift of Self-Care
If your parents are anything like my mother, then they must be good at taking care of everyone but themselves. Help them take care of their own wellbeing with any of these thoughtful self-care gifts.
11. Be There When They Need You
Actions speak louder than words. You don’t have to say “thank you” all the time to your parents for being there for you, but make sure you return the love by being there for them.
12. Help Make Their Lives Easier
Show your gratitude by doing what you can to make your parents’ lives easier. There are many ways to do this, for example:
- Offer to help out with their chores whenever you can.
- Teach them to use the latest technology—like virtual physician services.
- Get them functional tools—like an Instant Pot or e-reader—that would make day-to-day tasks such as cooking or reading more efficient.
13. Be Patient
Your parents still nag you sometimes about life, love, work, and everything else in between? Tell you stories you’ve heard at least 10 million times already? Or bring up those “I-wish-I-could-disappear-because-this-is-so-embarrassing” childhood memories of you at family dinners? Be patient with them. It’s a small but loving way to show your gratitude.
How to Show Appreciation to a Friend
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” —Marcel Proust
14. Check In Often
We all lead busy, and often stressful lives, which makes it extra special when you remember to check in with a friend. It’s an easy and thoughtful way to show that you’re thankful to have them in your life.
15. Give Undivided Attention
Giving someone your full attention is a basic sign of respect, and respect is a necessary element of a strong friendship. So if you really want to show a friend how much you appreciate them, start with the basics.
16. Recognize Their Efforts Accomplishments
Tell them you see their hard work and you’re happy and proud of how far they’ve come. It will mean a lot to them.
17. Help Them Take Care of Their Loved-One’s
Offer to take their aging parents to a doctor’s appointment, pick up their children from school when they’re running late, or feed their cat when they’re on vacation. Show them how much you love and appreciate them as a friend by extending your love to their family.
18. Learn Something From Them
You get to learn something new while making someone feel their knowledge is appreciated. A win-win!
Ways to Show Appreciation at Work
“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder
19. Bring Snacks to Share With the Team
A tried-and-true method to show your appreciation for your colleagues and make yourself popular at work!
20. Be On Time and Come Prepared
Show your appreciation for people’s time by being on time and come prepared to meetings.
21. Give Specific Praises
In my day job as Ms. HR, I always coach employees to give specific praises to colleagues they work with. Why? Specific praises not only sound more sincere, they also have a more lasting impact on positive behavioural change. How do you give a specific praise? Here are a few simple templates to follow:
- “Thank you for doing….it made a real difference.”
- “You did a great job. I especially liked how you did…”
- “I really appreciate these qualities (name the qualities) you have because…”
22. Small Tokens of Appreciation
It doesn’t cost much to buy someone a cup of coffee, get them a small gift card, or take them out for lunch, but it’ll go a long way in showing your gratitude to a coworker who has gone out of their way to help you out.
Ways to Show Appreciation to a Stranger
“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” – William James
23. Leave a Thank You Note on the Bill
Did you receive exceptional customer service? Let them know by leaving a thank you note on the bill with a specific remark about what they did well.
24. Make Their Job Easy
One of the best ways to show your appreciation for servers is to keep your requests straightforward and easy to fulfill.
I once overheard a woman at the table next to me in a restaurant specializing in all things chicken ask the server if they can serve the chicken noodle on the menu with no chicken or chicken broth. The server’s face was like this:
Servers have a tough job as it is, so don’t add extra burden to their workload with these curveballs.
25. Show Respect and Understanding
Remember everybody makes mistakes. If a service is taking extra long or it’s not up to your expectations, exercise your patience and always remain respectful, even if you do decide to voice your displeasure.
Don’t Hold Back on Showing Gratitude for the People in Your Life
If you have gratitude in your heart, don’t wait to show it. You, and those around you, will be much happier for it.
“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson