Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude

I’m pretty sure we all have people in our lives that we are thankful for. I’m sure you can think of a few off the top of your head. I have more than I can count. However, it is very rare that I actually communicate my gratitude to the people I care about. I know I should be more intentional about letting people know when they impact me in a positive way, but I rarely take the time to extend my gratitude.

gratitudeOne of the hardest parts about expressing gratitude for me, especially to other guys, is the difficulty of getting over the awkwardness it takes to randomly send someone a message of thanks. It is easy after I have recently interacted with them; however, many of the people I’m extremely grateful for I do not see very often. I actually received an email out of the blue from a really good friend. It was a simple thanks for being a friend but it was very encouraging. In addition, the subtle joy of a quick message was just enough to motivate me to pass along some gratitude myself.

Who are you grateful for? I know we have moved past the traditional thankfulness season, but I think it is worth extending (and possibly building lasting habits). Have you let the people you care about know recently how much you appreciate them? Do you think it is possible that unexpressed gratitude can actually communicate ingratitude?

Communicating Gratitude
How to we communicate our gratitude towards others? More often than not, we don’t. We often are extremely thankful or grateful but we keep that acknowledgment internal. We rarely share how we feel. And I’m the first to admit I could use a little work in this area. The irony is that it is a pretty simple task that only takes a few seconds or minutes a day. A simple text, email, letter, or call has the ability to radically impact someone’s day. We have a lot of positive power in our words, but we rarely let them escape. Instead our tendency is to simply keep our thanks inside and silently appreciate those around us.

Andy Stanley was the first person that introduce me to the idea that unexpressed gratitude communicates ingratitude. But I’ve often found that to be the case from my own experiences. I certainly understand much more after having a young child that rarely provides any kind of positive feedback. It makes me think back to everything my parents provided for me growing up- how often did I verbalize my thanks? Rarely (unless I needed something). I need to be intentional about letting my family know how much I care about them on a regular basis.

For my 30th birthday my wife did something incredible. She contacted almost all of my closest friends, family members, and mentors. She got them all to write a little bit about why they were grateful for our friendship. It was one of the coolest and most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. Seeing other people share their gratitude was a pretty cool experience. I appreciated both her gift, but also all of the kind, encouraging words of others. Communicating gratitude is powerful.

Learning to Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude can be simple. It can be as easy as a text saying, “I really appreciate everything you do for me” or “I really appreciate you being a true friend’. Although simple, just a short message can be a great way to brighten someone’s day. Showing gratitude towards others makes their day a little better, but it also forces us to focus on all of the positives we have in our lives as well.

Take a few moments and email your favorite blogger- you would be surprised. Even blogs with 100,000 readers rarely get messages about how the resourcefulness is appreciated. I’ve read plenty of blogs for years- some that have radically changed my life. But I’ve never even let the authors know how impactful their work has been. Even authors get surprisingly little positive feedback on a daily basis. My goal this week is to let a few authors know how impactful their work has been. My favorite way to finish a response to a very busy person is simply by saying thanks then the note “No response needed”. People enjoy the feeling of appreciation.

Gratitude Challenge
Unexpressed gratitude is really about procrastination and inertia. We all have people in our lives that could use a little encouragement. And we often have the intention of letting our appreciation be known. We rarely take the time or prioritize letting other people know about how thankful we are for them. So, we need a challenge.

The challenge is pretty cool. It is also adaptable depending on how much time you would like to spend on it. It starts by simply making a list of 10 people, or 20 or 31 (one for each day a month). The next step is to figure out how you are going to communicate with them. You probably already have their information or it may take a few minutes to gather the information. Just scribble each name on a piece of paper and write beside each one: text, call, email, letter, or any way you think would be best to get in touch with that person. This step is actually pretty important. Any little baby step that can decrease resistance as the challenge goes on, can be useful. Don’t write any notes the first day. Just get your list together. Then, write a little note of gratitude each day.

We actually tried the challenge in September. It was a pretty neat experience and I’m excited to try it again this month.
The steps are pretty easy. It just takes a little commitment. It can be easy to forget to say something nice to someone each day. Why not take a month to intentionally think of things you enjoy about others close to you? They will appreciate it. It will create a positive mental picture of others around us and put things into perspective. A kind word can brighten anyone’s day!

I’m Really Grateful
We will be moving into a season of excitement and gratefulness. We are expecting to have our second child in the next couple of days. It has been a pretty amazing few weeks leading up to the big event and I’m amazed at how many people have let us know we can count on them for support through the process (for meals, kids clothes, taking care of our toddler, etc). Times like this show just how thoughtful people can be. I’m pretty grateful for the wonderful family and friends that we have. I just need to be a little better about communicating my gratitude on a constant basis.

One thought on “Unexpressed Gratitude Communicates Ingratitude

  1. I often think about this as well, mainly with respect to all the things my parents have done for me and my sister. It’s crazy how much parents do for their kids and especially when in teenage years and even into the early twenties, they don’t seem to get much thanks for it all.

    In my experience women are much better than this than men are, my other half is always thanking people on our behalf and making small tokens of appreciation. My way of saying thanks (apart from literally, when someone does me a favour etc…) is to try to always be on hand to do people a favour or offer them help when needed.

    Having said that, I really like your idea of just going out of your way and saying a much more general “I am grateful for everything you do for me” rather than for a specific thing that has recently happened. If it comes right out of the blue, you are right, it probably comes across as much more genuine, rather than just right after someone has done you a solid!