Showing appreciation without expecting anything in return is a lot like giving without expecting something in return. Ultimately, showing appreciation is a form of giving and whether you realize it or not, when you engage in either, there’s a part of you deep down that’s looking for reciprocity.
You show your appreciation, you get nothing in return and it stings. You give something, you get nothing in return and it hurts. The more this goes on the more resentful and bitter you become.
You feel all of this hurt based on expectations you’ve set simply because you made a choice to give or to show appreciation. You can judge the other person all you like, but ultimately, you are the one who has decided to lay your expectations at the feet of another. Your disappointment is in your hands, not theirs.
The greatest gift someone can offer you is their time, because we live in a chaotic world where everyone is constantly busy. There’s always an excuse about not being able to meet up, or have a phone call, or have any kind of catch-up because there’s always something going on.
So, if you choose to show appreciation to the people who do make the time, you have to understand that you’re showing appreciation for what they already gave you. There’s nothing more for you there. That’s an example, obviously, there are other situations at play.
It really doesn’t matter what it is, the point is you should be able to give, you should be able to show appreciation without having it returned. Even if there is something in return, it might not happen immediately.
When you give, when you appreciate with no expectation of a return you get something else, whether you realize it or not.
You’re probably familiar with the trend of paying for an extra coffee so the person behind you benefits from it. If you’ve ever done this and then stood by to watch it unfold, then you will have seen a sheer look of delight on the benefactor’s face. You might even see them do the same for the person behind them. You chose to give and though you expected nothing in return, what you received in return was someone else’s joy. It’s a good feeling.
When you choose to show your appreciation, whether it’s for a person, a place, or a thing, what you will get in return is their joy. Isn’t that enough? When I stop at a coffee shop, grocery store, or convenience store I make a point of thanking the cashier. I usually add a ‘have a great day’ to it as well.
It’s something they are trained to do, but rarely does someone take the time to return the favor. It’s a small thing, but I spent enough time in service roles to know exactly how horrid people can be to those in the service industry. It doesn’t cost me a single thing to leave on that positive note, it takes me a second or two to utter, and I walk away. I let them know I appreciate their effort. I don’t need anything in return.
I still get a positive boost from it, though, because they almost always react with surprise. They don’t need to give me anything, the look on their face is more than enough. I want to help you harness this power too, so let’s look at some of the ways you can focus on appreciation without expectation. It all starts with working on yourself.
A Full Heart. The Beatles said all we need is love and John Mayer said that was a lie… the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Ultimately, the love we need the most begins at home. If you constantly seek gratification, acknowledgment, and love from external sources, then you’re not giving or appreciating with a full heart. When your heart is full you can give without receiving. When your heart is full you can show appreciation without expecting anything in return. You don’t need anything back because your heart is already full.
When you appreciate others with a full heart, you’re all about giving gifts and entirely disinterested in getting anything back.
Abundance. Do you believe in abundance? If so, you could give away practically everything you own and still believe that you have more than enough. It’s a positive mindset versus a negative mindset that revolves around scarcity. Scarcity is the mindset that there’s never enough, and people with a scarcity mindset are always looking for things in return. It sounds trite to suggest you should change your mindset, but it’s true. Adopt a mindset of abundance to show appreciation without expecting anything in return. You can choose to bless others in untold ways because you recognize that no matter what, you will always have enough in reserve.
Knowledge. Do you know what’s more powerful than anything else? Knowing that by showing your appreciation you are making someone else’s day (or life) better. That alone should be enough for you to show appreciation without expecting something in return. If you feel as though you have something to give, be it appreciation or otherwise, then you feel as though you’re capable of giving that. Why would you need anything in return if you have enough to give?
Equality. If you’re offering appreciation it should be to everyone who deserves it, not picking and choosing who you think needs it more. If there is an appreciation to give, give it freely. We don’t need to gate-keep it. We are prone to skipping over the people who annoy us, or who we decide don’t need the appreciation, or who we just don’t like. Get that out of your head. Be free with your appreciation.
The Return. What’s more narrow-minded than believing you need to receive something in return for giving your appreciation? It may stem from the fact that by giving we feel as though we have created space to receive. That cycle will always continue if you allow it to. I need you to shake that thought out of your mind. Understand that when you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, you will get plenty. It might not be from the person you expect, it might not be in the way that you expect, but the return is a much richer life however it unfolds.
When you show appreciation, when you give someone something and you feel uneasy or… unfulfilled, I want you to remind yourself that your expectations are showing. It’s natural, but you can overcome it. People deserve to have your appreciation without feeling obligated to offer something in return.
And, if you go into every interaction or encounter believing that you should walk away with something at the end, then you’re not living life the way you should be. As reciprocal as relationships should be, you shouldn’t act only because you expect something in return.
Would you want to only receive appreciation or gifts simply because someone wanted something in return? That’s a level of obligation that none of us should feel comfortable with.
George J. Ziogas is an HR Consultant with 15+ years of experience across a number of industries with a specialization in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). He is a qualified vocational instructor/teacher and personal trainer. George is also a blogger and top writer in numerous categories/tags on Medium. He speaks several languages (English, Greek, Macedonian), and enjoys working out/keeping fit, music, reading, and traveling. He is married and lives in the beautiful Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
Image courtesy of Lena Shekhovtsova.