5 reasons to express gratitude towards others

Posted on July 3rd, by Dr Rob Yeung .

I’ve written before on the importance of gratitude in our lives. For example, reminding ourselves about the good things we have in our lives is a surprisingly powerful way to lift our psychological wellbeing.

However, it turns out that expressing gratitude – showing our appreciation and saying thanks – towards others also has some powerful effects. Let’s look at 5 reasons we should all be expressing gratitude to the people in our lives:

1. Expressing gratitude makes for happier relationships

Research says that expressions of gratitude essentially benefit both parties in a relationship. Say we have a married couple called Taylor and Ashley. If Taylor expresses gratitude towards Ashley, then it motivates Ashley to engage in what are called ‘relationship maintenance behaviours’, i.e., actions that will serve to keep Taylor happier and prolong the relationship. In turn, Ashley’s actions will likely make Taylor feel more grateful towards Ashley, which will encourage Taylor to express even more gratitude towards Ashley.

Think about your closest relationship now. Gratitude on your part doesn’t just affect your partner. Your partner may behave differently towards you and boost your feelings, too.

2. Expressing gratitude boosts people’s job satisfaction

One research investigation followed 146 hospital workers over the course of 12 weeks. The research team led by Alicia Starkey at Portland State University found that employees who were thanked more frequently at work reported higher feelings of satisfaction about their work. These employees also said they slept better at night and experienced fewer headaches, too.

So, if you are a manager or an employee who wants to create a more positive work climate, simply say “thank you” a bit more often. Doing so may not only boost other people’s work satisfaction but improve their mental wellbeing as well.

3. Expressing gratitude motivates people to help others

A study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Adam Grant and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Francesca Gino demonstrated that even a brief, grateful comment can motivate people to be more helpful towards others. In their study, one group of fundraisers working at a university continued with their work as normal. A second group of fundraisers received a short visit from the university’s director of annual giving who said to them: “I am very grateful for your hard work. We sincerely appreciate your contributions to the university.”

When the researchers monitored the performance of the two fundraising groups, they noticed a staggering difference. The first group of fundraisers who carried on as usual made on average 41 outgoing phone calls. But the second group who heard the message of gratitude made 63 outgoing calls. In other words, hearing gratitude motivated them to work much harder to help others.

4. Expressing gratitude may make difficult bosses less unpleasant

Do you like your line manager? Unfortunately, a good number of employees report that their bosses are excessively critical or even aggressive towards them.

Managers who feel insecure about their capabilities are the most likely to engage in aggression towards their reports. However, a study conducted by Yeri Cho and Nathanael Fast at the University of Southern California found that employees who expressed gratitude towards their bosses were effectively able to defuse those bosses. Bosses who received more expressions of gratitude and thanks felt better about themselves and therefore became less critical.

5. Remember that expressions of gratitude are just words

Expressing gratitude is something quick to do – and it doesn’t cost any money to do it. There’s a massive body of research showing that expressions of gratitude have all sorts of positive effects both for people in their home as well as work lives.

So, get used to saying ‘thank you’ a little more often. For example, even if someone does something and doesn’t get a great result, you can still say thank you for their efforts, their hard work. Show your appreciation for others’ work and efforts a bit more frequently, and you may find that your relationships with all sorts of people could get better.

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