If you’re looking for a slam dunk finding in the social sciences, you need look no further than the vast research on gratitude.
Study after study shows counting your blessings makes you happier, more resilient, and can even help you sleep better. Actually expressing your gratitude to others amplifies these benefits. And when leaders show gratitude to their teams, employees are more satisfied, motivated, and likely to stick around.
Which raises an important question: If saying thank you is so good for both the thanker and the thankee, why don’t we express appreciation more? Science has looked into that question as well, and it seems most of the worries that cause us to hold back on expressing thanks are misguided.
Saying “thank you” is both easier and more impactful than you probably think, so you should probably be doing it a whole lot more.
People like to be thanked more than you think.
The first reason many of us hold off on thanking those we are genuinely grateful to is a very human fear that the whole conversation will be totally awkward. Won’t the other party just be embarrassed? Perhaps they already know how you feel? Or maybe you’ll stumble over your words or strike the wrong tone?
But, as I’ve reported here on Inc.com previously, scientists have actually tested whether these worries are valid, and the answer is clearly no. People like being thanked way more than we expect and don’t find the interactions very awkward at all. In short, most fears that revolve around the reception of your thanks are almost certainly baseless. If that’s what’s holding you back, you should definitely say thank you more.
How you say thanks barely matters.
Those concerns aren’t the only ones that might stop someone from expressing gratitude though. Managers, for instance, might worry about the right way to deliver their message. Should they hold off until they can say thanks in person? Is a Zoom call OK? Could you even express your gratitude by text, or would that come off as lazy and rude?
Again, helpful scientists are on the case. For a study recently published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers asked more than 200 students in the U.S. and Taiwan to say thanks either in person, over a video call, or via text and compared how both those expressing gratitude and the recipients felt about the messages.
As you might guess, people found saying thanks in person more rewarding than expressing gratitude over text, but not by as much as you probably expected. Texting didn’t make people feel more connected to each other, but it still boosted other positive emotions. And saying thanks via Zoom turned out to create just as much happiness and connection as actually talking in person.
“All of this is good news for those of us who have been communicating over Zoom the past year,” notes UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center in their writeup of the research.
So if you’re waiting to see someone in person to say thanks, this study suggests you should just give them a call or send them a text instead. The impact of saying thanks is huge and the drawbacks of particular communication methods are tiny, so don’t let concerns about how to express gratitude get in the way of thanking people more.
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