Thanksgiving is just the start of the season of giving. Although it is traditional to give thanks as we gather at the dinner table this year, we also need to remember to give thanks where we work and in our corporate writing. As a leader, corporate communicator, or business professional, it turns out, you might have a lot to gain from expressing gratitude.
Thanking someone for helping you can increase your own positive emotions, can make the helper feel better about herself, and can improve the chance that she will help you again.
Adam Grant, a psychologist and professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, conducted four experiments to determine how people who do favors, give gifts, and demonstrate kindness are affected by an expression of gratitude. It affects their self-image, Grant wrote in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
In two of the experiments, people who received a written thank-you note were motivated to help that same person again, as well as another person. In a third experiment, after a supervisor had expressed gratitude to a group of fundraisers in a call center, they made more phone calls. And in a fourth experiment, people who said thank-you felt socially valued.
Increasing the sense of self-worth is where gratitude has its greatest impact, Grant said, because people form a self-view according to their feeling of competence and their sense of community, their feeling of connectedness to people around them.
A number of psychologists have found that the sense of being valued by others is a fundamental human motivation. People who need help sometimes refuse it because getting help will make them feel needy and incompetent. Consequently, people who want to lend a hand will withhold the help, thinking that their gesture won’t be valued. But if the person who needs assistance says he is grateful for the help, that reduces the helper’s uncertainty about whether his kindness is of value and is appreciated.
Expressions of gratitude signify that a beneficiary values, needs, appreciates, and accepts one’s assistance, rather than rejecting or devaluing it, Grant said. Making a habit of saying thank you in the workplace can make you more persuasive by increasing your likability, which can make you more credible.