Friday, August 14, 2009

Empower Your Gratitude with Appreciation

In English, we have two words that we often use to express thankfulness: gratitude and appreciation. Although these words have subtle yet significant differences in meaning, we tend to use them interchangeably.

Gratitude requires no understanding of that for which we are grateful. It's an expression of sentiment on our part having nothing to do with the thing for which or the person for whom we are thankful.

Appreciation involves knowledge and understanding. You may recall courses on art and music appreciation. From a dictionary perspective, appreciation can be viewed as the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value or as a critical evaluation of a situation, person or thing.

Appreciation requires knowledge and insight; gratitude does not.

For Example
Let's say that you're moving to Japan and you have a Steinway grand piano that you won't be able to keep any longer. You want to give it to someone.

As you consider all the people to whom you might give the piano, there may be many who would be grateful (some of whom might play piano and others who might not). So, as you consider to whom to give the piano, you start thinking about who would appreciate it most, e.g., who would understand what makes the piano great, who would be able to play it, who would be able to hear the difference in the sound, etc.

Although many might be grateful, you'd likely give the piano to someone who could really appreciate it.

Gratitude is for the Grateful One
One of the things that many of us have learned is that it feels good to be grateful. In a situation where we're overwhelmed or feeling unappreciated or simply unhappy, taking time to actively express gratitude for what we have in our lives can provide a fast path to feeling better and to happiness.

As we express our gratitude to others (especially to those for whom we are grateful), we share that process of feeling better. Still, the primary beneficiary of gratitude is the one who is grateful.

Appreciation is for Others
To appreciate something requires an investment on our part. It often takes experience with whatever it is we want to appreciate. However, the return on that investment can be significant, specially if there are people in our life with whom we want connect.

For example, let's say that you have a son or daughter who is really into hip-hop or rap, a child with whom you want to build a deeper relationship. You might express gratitude for them regularly, but you still don't seem to connect.

I believe that investing yourself in listening to, learning about and understanding hip-hop and rap will provide you a powerful means of establishing a connection with your child. Rather than expressing what they might consider to be empty or non-meaningful gratitude, you can express insightful appreciation of their music.

You'll be able to say more than that's nice or turn that down. You'll be able to make meaningful comments on what you hear and see. Appreciation can help you build a bridge.

Appreciation Doesn't Require Gratitude
A classic mistake that many people make in business is to not appreciate they're competition. Rather than exploring, understanding and valuing the strengths of their competitors, people often ignore or dismiss them. They fail to learn from their competitors or see opportunities to transform competitors into partners.

Now, you don't have to be grateful for your competition to appreciate your competition. Appreciation simply involves getting to know them and what they do, understanding their motives and goals, seeing their strengths and their weaknesses.

By embracing and appreciating your competition, you can become a much stronger competitor.

We All Prefer Appreciation
In many ways, gratitude is kind of like your mom telling you that you're handsome. It's nice to hear, but it don't get you a prom date.

I believe that each of us prefers to be the object of appreciation rather than the object of gratitude. Whenever we connect with someone who has similar interests and passions, we tend to talk more easily and more satisfyingly.

Whenever we've worked long hours to complete a project that has required skill and expertise, rather than hearing that's nice or how wonderful, we tend to prefer comments from someone who notices all the nuances of our work, someone who understands the required effort and skill.

If there's someone in your life with whom you seem not to be connecting or with whom you have lost connection, perhaps it's time to shift from gratitude to appreciation. Take time to learn what's important to them. Invest yourself in understanding it. Become an expert.

I believe that your investment will appreciate exponentially.

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