We are all taught simple expressions of gratitude such as “thank you” or “excuse me,” but most of the time, these sentiments can fall flat because we’re simply going through the motions. What is gratitude and how can we make sure we’re truly giving it?
One area this is particularly important is in your romantic relationships. Regularly expressing gratitude to your partner is an essential element in making sure they feel cared for, understood, and validated. But so many of us have trouble following through on this, or don’t feel we receive this appreciation from our partners. Here are three simple but key principles for expression appreciation that authors James Pawelski, Ph.D., and Suzann Pileggi Pawelski share in their upcoming book, HAPPY TOGETHER:
Appreciation is other-focused. Remember that effective appreciation is not self-focused. That is, don’t emphasizes the benefits you received from something your partner did. Instead, praise aspects of your partner’s actions or personality. In other words, gratitude done well emphasizes the giver, not the gift. So, instead of saying, “I love that you did X, Y or Z for me!” say, “You always know what I need!”
Be authentic. This one’s simple but difficult to achieve. If you or your partner are expressing appreciation in a flippant manner or with a sense of obligation, it is not true gratitude. Make sure that your expressions to one another are from the heart—that they are truly authentic.
Be sensitive to context. When expressing appreciation, you must ensure that you are aware of your partner, their needs, and their desires. Before you throw that surprise party, ask yourself if the idea is because you would appreciate it or if they actually would as well. If your expression ultimately comes down to what you think is a good idea without considering your partner, it is one-sided and ignores the principles of gratitude.