Thank you! The power of appreciation & gratitude

Well done! Great job! Thanks!

It has been said that Sorry seems to be the hardest word [1], but for many people it’s “thanks”.

At my organisation we are encouraged to give regular, constructive feedback to allow us all to improve the areas that we may be weaker at. That’s very valuable, but maybe we don’t spend enough time simply praising or giving thanks to each other?

I’ve always wondered why people don’t seem to find it easy to give praise or express gratitude. It seems to me that people are much more inclined to criticise. Even that “constructive feedback” has an implied criticism and while useful, won’t give the recipient that warm feeling.

In fact a recent survey [2] of almost 8000 managers found that 40% never give praise of any kind, whereas another study [3] showed that high performing teams get on average six times more positive messaging than lower performing teams. And it’s not just in the workplace. It’s long been known that successful marriages and relationships feature a positive:negative feedback ratio of at least 5:1. If that ratio is much lower then it’s a significant predictor of divorce [4].

Seems to me saying thanks is most definitely a good thing. So I’ve done a bit of research.

What are the benefits of saying thanks?

  • Mutual happiness
    • It makes you feel good, it makes them feel good. Everyone’s a winner.

 

  • Bridge building
    • Gratitude is a great tool to turn around a bad relationship. If an interaction isn’t going well, then finding a reason to show appreciation can be that starting point for resolving issues and mending your relationship with someone.

 

But it’s not easy. Many people find it very difficult to express gratitude. Why?

  • Cringe factor
    • I know some people that find a praise-giving session tough to deliver. They find it slightly embarrassing. And sometimes the recipients can also [5]. That can be a barrier and mean that praise gets as far as someone’s mind, but no further as no-one wants an emotionally uncomfortable situation. I find that the more you get into the habit if giving praise, the more comfortable you get and you also learn to recognise the reaction of the recipient and tailor your approach accordingly.

 

  • We expect “out of the ordinary”
    • At work we expect excellence from our colleagues. So often, extra praise isn’t given unless someone demonstrates out of the ordinary performance. Like someone who doesn’t tip because the “server is just doing their job”. I try to think more about trust, reliability & attitude rather than going the extra mile. There are plenty of colleagues that I’ve thanked or praised simply because they make my life easier in any number of ways. In cases like these it’s important to be specific and constructive. Praising a particular behaviour gives the recipient more to work with than generic thanks. It also appears more genuine [6].

 

  • We don’t want people to get one up on us
    • Rare, but I’ve seen it happen. “Why should I praise that person, they’ll get better at their job and then they’ll make more progress than me?” Yes this is the wrong attitude in a collaborative firm, but it’s out there, fortunately in small doses. For those that may think that way, I’d suggest reading about the power of givers and takers – something I’ll be blogging about in future.

 

Ok that’s cool – I want to be more grateful, but how? There are plenty of tips for giving effective gratitude.

 

How to express generosity

  • A weekly gratitude note
    • I like this one. I end my week by sending a weekly note to someone that I appreciate. I find it gives me (and hopefully them) a nice warm feeling at the end of a week. Behavioural psychologist Adam Grant recommends “chunking” gestures of gratitude for maximum effect. [7]

 

  • Make it public
    • Showing gratitude in public is also powerful. My team has a bi-weekly project update and in it we have a section called “Agile BI Appreciates“, where the team calls out anyone they feel like. See here for an example.

 

  • Keep a thanks diary
    • People easily forget when you’ve either done something well or when they have done something well. Recording experiences boosts the positive feeling. Create an Outlook “Quick Step” to file mails that fall into the “thanks” category for later use.

 

  • Mental exercises
    • Yes you can train your brain to be more of a thankful and appreciative person [8].

 

Ok that’s it. Thanks for reading. Comments invited.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sorry_Seems_to_Be_the_Hardest_Word

[2] https://qz.com/work/1010784/good-managers-give-constructive-criticism-but-truly-masterful-leaders-give-constructive-praise/

[3] https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0002764203260208

[4] https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-magic-relationship-ratio-according-science/

[5] https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201308/why-some-people-hate-receiving-compliments

[6] https://www.inc.com/gordon-tredgold/the-thing-that-many-people-get-wrong-about-giving-praise.html

[7] https://hurryslowly.co/adam-grant/

[8] https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/gratitude-exercises/
Advertisements