How to Express Appreciation

“The greatest need of a human being is to be understood, validated and appreciated” — Steven Covey

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States, and while this isn’t a holiday that I grew up with, I do love any opportunity to luxuriate in the goodness of life.

During Thanksgiving meals in the past, my family would often go around the table answering the classic question, “What are you grateful for this year?” This was followed by variations of the predictable categories of our health, our happiness, our family, our friends, sunshine, good food, and so forth.

Perhaps this all sounds familiar to you, too.

We all know about the importance of gratitude in our lives, but this week I want to invite you to take on a slightly different, but definitely more powerful and relational, appreciation practice.

Ask a new question.

Instead of asking, “What are you grateful for” this year, consider asking a new question:

“What do you appreciate about someone at this table?”

Talk about something specific.
Tell a story about this person.
Show them the ways that they’ve contributed in some positive way to your life.
Tell them about the positive impact they’ve actually had on you.
Mention what you admire or respect about them.
Let them know how they inspire or motivate you in some way.

Each person at the table could take the person next to them, or everyone could do everyone. Or, take some time before you arrive to write each person a short note, and leave it on their plates as they sit down. Get creative and make it your own.

Here are some words for you to use as a starting spring board:

{First Name}, something I really appreciate about you is/you enrich my life with your ______________ (your thoughtfulness, your sense of humor, your playfulness, your deep integrity), and I’m telling you this because/remember when (tell as specific story, refer to a specific action, something they did, something they said).

Want to take it to the next level?

If you want to up the intimacy of the moment you can do so by then also sharing the impact that they had on you when they did this thing, and how their embodiment of this quality of trait affects you:

When you remembered that I had once mentioned in passing that I love Trevor Noah, and then you tried to get us tickets to a show of his in December, I felt such warmth and delight. Even though we weren’t available to go when he’d be in town, it meant so much to me to be seen, heard, and considered in such a real and tangible way. It was one of the many ways that you show me how I matter to you, and I feel such deep appreciation for how you enrich my life. Thank you.

Why is this powerful?

Well, it embodies a bit of wisdom that has been said by many different people in many ways:

What you pay attention to grows.
The grass is greener where you water it.
What you appreciate, appreciates.
You get more of what you focus on.

In your relationships with other humans, you tend to get more of what you focus upon.

That’s why I am constantly writing about and encouraging you to focus on what will help, instead of on what is wrong. To look for what you want more of, instead of talking about what you want less of. And, to let people know what you appreciate about them, instead of what you think they “should” work on and improve.

Finally, I want to let you know how much I appreciate you. Thank you for being on your own personal healing, learning, and growth journey through life.

As you know, I deeply believe that the changes we each make in our hearts ripple out and impact the world. Our courage gets put into action as we strengthen our compassion and clarity muscles, and with courage, we can begin co-creating a new future of our choosing — one that works better for all people and life in general, on our beautiful planet.

Happy Thanksgiving.

XOXO Yvette.

Dr. Yvette Erasmus is a psychologist, teacher, and consultant who specializes in transformative education for human healing and growth. Synthesizing mind-body medicine, somatic experiencing, diversity and inclusiveness, nonviolent communication, and integral-relational-cultural psychology, Dr. Erasmus integrates core insights from multiple wisdom traditions and offers various programs for community learning as well as one-on-one consulting. To learn more, visit yvetteerasmus.com.

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Writer, speaker, psychologist, and consultant offering practical tools and insights for conscious, compassionate, courageous living. Based in Minneapolis, MN.

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Yvette Erasmus PsyD

Yvette Erasmus PsyD

Writer, speaker, psychologist, and consultant offering practical tools and insights for conscious, compassionate, courageous living. Based in Minneapolis, MN.

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