As a counselor, Richard Nicastro has seen expressions of gratitude improve relationships-or backfire. Here are his suggestions:
Think small. Instead of waiting for big surprises, like a new car or dream cruise, focus on the little things: your partner's smile, your husband letting you sleep an extra half-hour while he takes care of the kids, a friend picking up your favorite mocha latte. "Small gratitudes are the antidote to taking life and others for granted," Nicastro says.
Choose to be grateful. Being grateful only when you get what you're hoping for makes you passive and a victim of circumstances. "One person I worked with made the decision to each day focus on how grateful he is for being able to breathe fresh air," Nicastro says. "This daily event had a dramatic impact on his overall outlook on life."
Feel appreciation before you express it. You can lose the trust of others if they sense that your words aren't authentic. The feeling remains long after the message is spoken.
Don't expect anything in return. Be selfless when you give thanks. Expecting to get something back dilutes the benefits.
- Avoid expressing gratitude when others are upset with you. This can feel invalidating to the other person because what you're saying seems to contradict what they're feeling about you. Resolve any conflicts or issues before saying "thank you."