Is there a right way to express appreciation?

It’s an odd question isn’t it?

It’s something that has occurred to me several times and it happens frequently enough. People trying to express appreciation for something and feeling they have to add in a bit of “constructive criticism” for “being helpful”.

We’re in an entitled world. And this is not a millennial thing. It’s a person thing. If you’re human in this day and age you’re pretty much gonna feel entitled to most things. If things aren’t given to us on a platter, we moan about it. We forget, very easily, that we are probably at our most privileged in life than we have ever been. For those of us growing up and living in Western economies, very little is unavailable. Sure there is inequity all over the place, and there’s unfair discrimination happening in 50 ways from Sunday. Just because we have abundance doesn’t mean we have things figured out.

The entitlement we have is at odds with appreciation. In fact, I think entitlement is the arch enemy of appreciation. We are poor at expressing appreciation well because we feel entitled to the thing we’re either waiting for or receiving.

When people say things like…

Had a good night out and Bob’s Bistro, just a shame that the cutlery wasn’t clean!

Had a good day at the theme park, it would have been so much better if there weren’t so many people there!

Cor I was lucky to get the train but almost missed it cos of all these school kids in my way!

About to receive the Nobel Peace Prize! Would be so much better if I didn’t have to travel to actual Sweden to collect it 🤷🏽‍♂️

Was so lucky to be seen so quickly at the A&E but left annoyed because the pharmacy was shut and have to come back tomorrow to collect my medicine 😡

You get the idea.

I see it happen so much. People are trying to express gratitude and can’t help but say something negative alongside it.

I learned a long time ago, it’s very possible to accept things as they are, and to be grateful what is present, not what is missing. I learned that my sense of entitlement doesn’t mean I actually deserve stuff. If I want something, I have to put the effort in for it. If something hasn’t gone the way of expected, in most cases I can influence that so it’s better, or I have to accept that’s what it is.

You can ask for clean cutlery and be very polite about it. You can manage your time better so if a delay happens it’s not a concern. You can understand people only work so many hours and they can’t be at your beck and call.

Moreso, I believe, it’s about how we manage our sense of entitlement. It’s ok to feel entitled, as long as it doesn’t turn you into someone who thinks they’re positive and grateful but is actually needy and greedy.

That sense of entitlement is strong in a lot of us. “But if I don’t say it then how will they know what I really think?” “If I don’t provide criticism how will they get better?”

It’s very possible to express appreciation without saying something negative. It’s also very possible and acceptable to give criticism when it’s solicited or when it is genuinely needed to be said.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

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