Monday, March 22, 2010

Coaching Lessons: Show Gratitude

Here's a quick and easy way to improve your relationships. Say thank-you. Write a thank-you note. When you feel grateful let people know it. Better yet, when you do not feel especially grateful for a favor or a gift, express your gratitude anyway.

So says Wray Herbert in this interesting post. Link here.

Psychological research has now shown that when you make a habit of saying thank-you, not only will the recipient of this ritualized expression feel better toward you, but you will feel better toward the person. Here the feelings might well follow the facts, not lead it.

As Herbert notes, we all learn the thank-you ritual as children. And we all resist it. Our parents tell us to do it anyway. And they are right to do so. With enough practice, saying thank-you and writing thank-you notes will become a good habit. And it will make you a better person, a person who feels better toward others.

What happens if you feel grateful but do not express it? Experiments have shown that if you do not express your gratitude you will feel less connected to the person whose favor you have ignored. But if you do not feel especially grateful and respect the ritual, you will feel better about the other person. And you will probably feel more grateful too.

This verges on making a Confucian point. Empty gestures-- assuming that they are the right gestures-- will improve your relationships more than will a heart brimming over with unexpressed good feeling.

If you don't believe it, try it at home. See what happens.

Thank you notes are a social convention. Even if you are writing it under duress, with a parent or spouse standing over you with a whip, once you do it you will feel closer to the other person.

It may feel counterintuitive, but the person who writes a thank you note because he has to or because he has fallen into the habit of doing so... is grateful.

But, you will say, isn't the person being insincere? Doesn't this form of ethical thinking promote insincerity?

Not really. If you get into the habit of writing thank-you notes, and if you begin to feel better about doing it-- a normal reaction once you begin to understand the benefits-- your future efforts will increasingly gain the merit of being sincere.

But if you feel sincerely grateful and do not express it according to the proper social conventions, you are, effectively, an ingrate. You will start feeling worse toward the person whose favor you have ignored, and this will surely be reciprocated.

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