Gratitude VS Appreciation: 5 Basic Differences

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I think we can both agree that having a heart of gratitude and appreciation is something that people should strive for.  Even amid the stress and hardships of life, we can still find things to be thankful for… if we are open to seeing them. 

That said, have you ever stopped to think of the difference between having gratitude versus having an appreciation for someone or something?  Many people think they are one in the same.

This article will teach you more about gratitude and appreciation, as well as list the 5 fundamental differences between the two.  Prepare to be enlightened!

What is Gratitude?

Gratitude is defined as thankfulness for benefits received.  It also demonstrates gratefulness or contentment with a person or a thing for what they add to your life.  For example, you can have gratitude for something that makes things better.  Alternatively, you can be thankful for a situation that has been removed or eradicated to make things satisfactory and your discomfort removed.

For example, when a basketball team wins a championship, its players express gratitude for its coaching staff, trainers, management, and fans who supported them all season long.  The team may also express gratitude for winning and getting the “monkey off their backs” by meeting their team's expectations, relieving pressure received by the media.  

Gratitude is a broad way to count your blessings without being overly specific concerning a person and single act you’re thankful for.

What is Appreciation?

Appreciation is enjoyment and recognition given to someone or something for the positive benefits that came out of a situation.  In addition, it is having a complete understanding of the worth or value of something.  For example, you can express your appreciation to someone for helping you move some heavy pieces of furniture.  Because you realize that without them, you could not have gotten it done.

Similar to the example used for gratitude, a team could express appreciation to its coaching staff, trainers, management, and fans because without them, the team would have been successful.

Both gratitude and appreciation are great choices to use when showing thankfulness.  As we look at gratitude vs appreciation and the basic differences between the two, we hope to help you decide which is more appropriate to give to someone in any given circumstance. 

Gratitude is something we should learn to live in a state of every day… while appreciation gives others specific recognition for their part in your happiness or success.

Gratitude VS Appreciation: 5 Basic Differences

1.  Gratitude is something you feel thankful for within yourself.  It is more circumstantial or situational.

When you show gratitude, it is a state of being thankful for an outcome and that a bad situation turned out good.  For instance, if you were in a bad relationship, you can be grateful or have gratitude that the relationship is over.  You may also show gratitude that you found out a person's true colors before things got more serious.  Furthermore, gratitude can be displayed for your experiences and that all things worked out for the better.

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Appreciation is enjoyment and recognition given to someone or something for the positive benefits that came out of a situation.

You can have gratitude for having enough money to put food on the table, clothes on your back, and shelter.   It can even extend to being thankful for your upbringing, employer, good parents, a healthy family, a loving spouse, responsible children, or avoiding an accident. 

2.  Appreciation is something that you extend to others.

When I show appreciation, I appreciate services rendered or acts provided unto me by specific people.  I highlighted them and what they did that I enjoyed.   For instance, you can appreciate your husband for the long hours he puts in at work.  He gets up at 4am before the sun rises to get ready for work and doesn’t return until the sun sets in the evening. 

You appreciate that he makes time to hear about your day and communicate about important issues after he gets home.  Furthermore, you may appreciate that he makes time to be with the kids, help them with homework, and play with them even though he is tired. 

Other forms of appreciation could be thanking an officer for not giving you a speeding ticket but letting you off with a warning.  In addition, you could appreciate how your wife gets off work, comes home, and still manages to cook dinner, take the kids to ball games, do laundry, and keep the house tidy. 

Appreciation costs us so little but can make a significant difference in another person's life.  We feel great when our bosses show appreciation for the work we have completed on our jobs.  Moreover, it boosts morale when we receive certificates of appreciation for doing an excellent job, having perfect attendance, or exceeding expectations on a project.  

When eating out at a restaurant and the waiter or waitress refills our drinks, it is good manners to simply say thank you to show appreciation.  Even if it is their job to serve us.

3.  Gratitude is a result of inner satisfaction. 

When we are happy about our overall well-being and where we are in life, we tend to have a heart of gratitude.  We are not only grateful for the good fortunes and blessings that we get to enjoy but also thankful that things that could have gone wrong didn't.  In addition, when we have inner satisfaction, there is no competition with others around us.  Still, we have a sense of peace and contentment with the season we are currently in, in life.

For instance, you have gratitude that a tornado missed your house even though there was a tornado warning in your town.  In addition, you may have gratitude that you overcame a speech impediment as a child, and now you speak motivationally to large audiences all over the county. 

Gratitude also says you may not be driving a BMW or a Tesla, like some of your neighbors or co-workers.  However, you're thankful for the Ford you drive and that it is a dependable car for you and your family. 

Lastly, gratitude says you may not have a million dollars in the bank, but you are thankful that your family's needs are met and bills are paid.  When you have gratitude, it is contagious.  So many would trade their frustration while trying to keep up with the Jones for the peace you have in your heart about your current lot in life.

4.  Appreciation benefits relationships.

If you want to improve a relationship with anyone, show them appreciation.  Appreciation is like fuel in a car.  Life can be so hard depending on what season of life we are in, and many of us are giving our best effort in all we do.  However, at times we are like a vehicle, running on fumes and need fuel before we can go any further.  A simple acknowledgment of what a person adds to your life or organization can be the much-needed fuel to keep a person going strong.

In the workplace, it is said that people quit bosses, not jobs.  So, to have happier employees that you may supervise, it would be wise to show appreciation.  Thank them for working so hard when the department was shorthanded.  You can also show appreciation for milestones hit on the job.  Many companies give bonuses to show appreciation when employees hit certain milestones.  For instance, some businesses provide safety bonuses for working safely over a 6-month or 12-month period.  Others give bonuses for hitting their sales target for the month. 

“Putting your money where your mouth is…” is a great way to appreciate another person.  Plus, you are planting seeds into your own personal wealth and relationships by doing so.

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Gratitude is defined as thankfulness for benefits received. 

For example, if you were to buy your wife a gift to say that you appreciate her on Mother’s Day, but it was an inexpensive piece of costume jewelry, it may offend her rather than encourage her.  Not that you are trying to buy a person's affections, but you are showing them a degree of thanks by the level you are willing to spend to show your appreciation.  You may tell her how special she is and show gratitude all year long, but this particular day is for appreciation.  

We do this when tipping our waiters.  Our tip usually reflects the level of service we experienced while they were waiting on our table.  A generous tip says your service was excellent.  It's a show of appreciation that goes so much farther than words of gratitude.  It also builds a relationship so that we ask for the same server when we go back time after time.  We have sown into someone’s lives, and we reap the benefits of excellent service and a developing relationship going forward.  

5.  There is no genuine appreciation without gratitude.

Gratitude is the soil that appreciation is sown into and grows out of.  There is no appreciation shown to a person without first being grateful for them and how they add value to our lives.

For example, in professional sports, when an athlete goes into the Hall of Fame for their accomplishments, they show gratitude to the committee for voting for them, their coaches, teammates, family, and fans.  However, words of appreciation are then expressed for specific people that the athlete feels are worth mentioning. 

These are people who are worth highlighting and sharing an inspirational story about and how they helped them get to where they are today.   Many times, you will hear them speak words of appreciation to their parents for pushing them to practice.  Perhaps the athlete was raised by a single parent who worked two jobs to send them to training camps.  Then, appreciation is shown to the particular coaches that taught them and recognized that they had the skills it took to be great.  Furthermore, they express appreciation to specific teammates and even opponents that brought out the best in them.    

Even though we have been looking at gratitude vs appreciation, two things are clear. First, you cannot have true appreciation without gratitude.  Second, appreciation without gratitude is not genuine.  No one wants to be on the receiving end of praise when it is not from a place of authenticity and gratitude. 

Final Thoughts on Gratitude VS Appreciation: 5 Basic Differences

It is no secret that people with gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness in their hearts are happier people.  These are people who look at the cup as half full, not half empty. Additionally, they see the best in others and seek to add value to their lives, as they have to theirs. 

Just know that having a heart of gratitude and desire to show appreciation are significant traits in a world where many only look out for themselves and lack genuine appreciation for others.  Counting your blessings and being appreciative of others is part of what makes you unique – and a blessing to others around you.  So, always be grateful for everything… but don't forget to show others around you how much you appreciate them as well.

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