In the eulogy he gave for his father many years ago, one of my best friends shared a painful regret: He had never really considered or thanked his dad for the loving care he showered on his son throughout his life.
My friend then proceeded to describe the wonderful relationship they had, asserting that he would never get over this omission.
That confession struck me hard, and I resolved to avoid similar remorse with my family, friends, and others important to me.
For people who have provided me with love, care, or thoughtfulness, I became determined not to leave my regard for them, or appreciation for their kindnesses, a secret. Along the way, I found that feeling and expressing gratitude made me feel good.
A recent New York Times article by Jennifer Breheny Wallace supports my enthusiasm for appreciation.
She wrote, “A growing body of research points to the many psychological and social benefits of regularly counting your blessings,” and referenced a 2011 Journal of Positive Psychology study, which concluded that gratitude is “associated with less anxiety, less depression, and greater well-being.” Wallace continued, “Gratitude initiates what researchers call ‘an upward spiral of positive emotions’.”
We are not only blessed by our relationships with family and friends. We can tap into this wellspring of affirmative feeling by showing sincere gratitude to clients and colleagues who have helped us.
Doing so also has positive collateral effects.
What to express gratitude for in business
For clients, how about the trust and belief they have shown in us, the revenue they provide, their understanding when things don’t go optimally, their willingness to support a new product or approach, and/or their referrals?
For colleagues, how about a job well done, effort above and beyond the call, a heads-up at something in the offing, constructive criticism, and/or stalwart support at a critical moment?
Anyone who is thinking, “No. My hard work for clients, and/or my colleagues’ pay, covers all of that,” is missing a major opportunity to build more meaningful and enduring relationships.
How to offer appreciation
I often say it directly, in person, whether one on one, or in front of a group.
Or, it can be nice to do it over lunch.
Another effective way is to put it in writing. If so, I recommend using an age-old tool: a handwritten note!
It can be short and to the point, but it should be specific about what you are grateful for. No matter how it is expressed, it must be absolutely sincere, or it will come across as phony and may even backfire.
Emailed appreciation can work as well.
Written reflections can be shared with significant others and can be treasured by recipients for decades.
I have come to believe that honest appreciation makes the world go round. It is exhilarating to share it as well as to receive it. The reaction from family, friends, colleagues, clients, and others can be monumental.
And it can significantly reduce regretful and irretrievable would haves, could haves, and should haves.
In short, gratitude helps to open our hearts to others, and open their hearts to us.
A final thought
In her article, Wallace also quotes from a 2013 poll commissioned by the John Templeton Foundation in which “59% of those surveyed thought that most people today are ‘less likely to have an attitude of gratitude than 10 or 20 years ago’.”
Please remember that by expressing more gratitude we can feel better, develop stronger personal and business relationships, and differentiate ourselves in a very positive way from an increasingly ungrateful world.