Say Thank You And See What Happens

For a long time I stopped holding doors for people because I got so mad when they didn't say "thank you."  In fact, this morning I held the door for an elderly man in a white pharmacist's jacket and he didn't say a word.

Forgive me, but I said, "You're welcome!" as I slammed the door behind me and rampaged into Dunkin' Donuts.

But a new study says that saying thank you is more than just good etiquette.  It's actually essential to the social good.

According to newswise.com, new research offers the first evidence that expressions of gratitude go beyond mere etiquette and provide real social benefit.

Researchers in Australia found the first known evidence that "gratitude leads to perceptions of interpersonal warmth, creating fertile ground for relationships to bloom."

Now, I've been onto "gratitude" since Oprah suggested keeping a journal to write down five things you're grateful, for every day.  I only kept it up for about a month but every once in a while now, I'll jot down, "heard the frogs in the pond" in the spring, or "my roses are finally growing (I have a black thumb)!"

One of the researchers noted that a simple thank you leads people to view you as a warmer human being and, consequently, to be more interested in socially engaging with you and continuing to get to know you to build a relationship with you.

The research was quite simple: university students were asked to act as mentors and critique younger students' admissions essays.  Some of the students wrote back fervent thank you notes, while others didn't.

The undergraduates who were thanked were more likely to want to continue their relationship with their mentee than those who were not thanked. In addition, the grateful mentees were rated as having significantly warmer personalities.

The study revealed that people develop new relationships with grateful others because of an enhanced perception of personal warmth.

But I'll take it deeper than that.  I feel good when I thank someone.  

An attitude of gratitude leads people to behave in more thoughtful, helpful and kind ways. Research has also shown that gratitude experienced more deeply and more often is linked to many benefits for people, including increases in well-being and decreases in depression.

I've learned to compliment people on just about anything.  I'll tell a woman in line in the grocery store in front of me that I like her shoes, or a man reprimanding his child quietly and kindly that he's a good dad (it drives my son and husband crazy).

Researchers noted that, when we feel grateful, it definitely connects us to others. One commented that there is so much evidence now that our emotions are an important component of our navigation of the social world, without the ability to feel, we would be in a lot of trouble.

And as for that gratitude journal?  If you do it every day, it doesn't just remind you of the good things that happen in your life.  It may just switch how you think about your life. 



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