How to Actually Show Gratitude – The Lost Art of Appreciation

I’ll say it,

Your mom and dad were right; there are three magic words, “Please” and “Thank You.”

Using words to acknowledge gratitude is part of developing social courtesy, but words like thank you must be supported by a grateful heart and appreciative action.

In business (and more broadly in all aspects of life), the words THANK YOU are only as meaningful as the sincerity with which they are said.

Leaders set the tone for an appreciative workplace. A culture of gratitude occurs when leaders authentically appreciate their team members (recognizing them for meaningful contributions) and consistently show gratitude to customers (warmly thanking them).

Gratitude and Business

In her article titled How Gratitude Advances Marketing and Business, Cheryl Conner notes that leaders should:

Go for gratitude first, and loyalty will follow. The emotional response that is most likely to drive loyal behavior, according to <strategy advisor Mark> Boncheck, is gratitude. By its definition, gratitude is a feeling of appreciation and an expression of that feeling through an overt and appropriate act. It is a reciprocal act by its very nature that can serve as the basis of a relationship beyond the transactional sale.

Cheryl also cites research on how customers want loyalty programs to reflect a brand’s gratitude:

A study by Kitewheel shows three-quarters of consumers believe loyalty programs are ways for brands to show their loyalty to consumers. But two-thirds of marketers view loyalty programs as a way for consumers to demonstrate their loyalty to brands.

Authentic gratitude is a great benefit for team members as well. Dr. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, cites many studies associating gratitude with well-being:

Grateful people report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, optimism and lower levels of depression and stress. The disposition toward gratitude appears to enhance pleasant feeling states more than it diminishes unpleasant emotions. Grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.

Here are three things you can do to practice authentic gratitude:

1) Keep a Joy/Gratitude Journal – We are what we focus on. By consciously looking for things that bring you joy, you become a joy spotter. Writing those items down reinforces the abundance of your blessings.

2) Let People Know How They’ve Contributed to Your Joy – Practice sharing your gratitude daily. For example, identify five team members or customers you will say thank you to this week. Use the person’s name and an “I” statement. Be specific and explain the positive impact they have had on you (Susan, I was inspired by the kindness you showed by taking extra time to answer that customer’s question. Thank You, you’re making a huge difference here.)

3) Learn How People Want to be Appreciated – Gary Chapman and Paul White (Authors of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People) offer ways to assess if people prefer to be appreciated through such things as Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service or Tangible Gifts. They also remind us that some people prefer public recognition while others want one-on-one acknowledgment.

 Gratitude is reciprocal, and it is contagious. Spread it for your well-being and for the good of the people you are fortunate enough to serve.

To learn more about ways to show authentic gratitude, don’t hesitate to contact me at

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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