Ahhhh, Gratitude

Thanks a Lot!


We’ve got a fever. And the only cure is more…gratitude? In our cultural obsession with creating high self-esteem in ourselves and our children, one of the many by-products is a dependency on being thanked and appreciated.  Thanked for everything! And if we don’t receive the gratitude we expect or think we deserve, judgments are heaped upon those ungrateful souls who have dared to overlook our generosity and/or accomplishment.

Needless to say, gratitude and appreciation in our culture has lost a lot of its, ah, punch. In fact, many expressions of thanks and appreciation actually carry judgment within them. Consider that compliments are often judgments – however positive – of others.

“You did a good job on cleaning the kitchen.”
“You managed that contract really well.”
“You were really funny at dinner tonight.”
“It was kind of you to take care of that shopping run.”

Gratitude is more about telling folks how they have made life better for you.

None of these comments tell the other person what made life better for the speaker. All of the above examples establish the speaker as someone who sits in judgment. And in NVC, judgments – whether intended as positive or negative – reveal little about what is actually going on within the speaker, creating alienation from the person you are speaking to. Be aware, though, that it may not feel like alienation (“Hey, I love it when people tell me I’m funny!”).

Oh, great. All you want to do is just give someone a compliment, and now NVC is telling you that you are sitting in judgment. NVC is judging your judgment! But what’s behind your gratitude/compliment/appreciation? What is it that you are hoping to acknowledge and express? The expression of gratitude in NVC takes 3 things into consideration:

  1. The actions that have contributed to our well-being
  2. The wonderful feelings created by the fulfillment of those needs
  3. The particular needs of ours that have been fulfilled


Or, to put it another way:

Gratitude in NVC: What the heck am I trying to say?

This is what you did; this is what I feel; this is the need of mine that was met.


Lastly, a note on receiving gratitude. Often, we tend to receive it from one of two polar positions. One is egotism: we’re superior because we’ve been appreciated. The other is false humility, denying the importance of the appreciation and shrugging it off. NVC encourages us to receive appreciation with the same quality of empathy we express when listening to others; be aware of your feelings and needs when receiving gratitude from someone else. When we hear how we have made life wonderful for someone else, we recognize the enormous power and potential that we have to improve the quality of others’ lives.


“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind. “           -Lionel Hampton