When I first moved to North America from Azerbaijan nearly two decades ago, life presented me with many teachers. Each of them taught me something that helped with the transition into my new life. Among those teachers, there were two of my classmates from Omaha, Nebraska, named Jason and Brian. They took it upon themselves to teach me the nuances of the English language that weren’t too obvious to a foreign educated person. One of the very first things they covered was different ways to express appreciation in English.
For example, you say “Thanks” for the smallest, passing favor someone does for you – such as pointing out that you have an eyelash on your cheek. (The original reference kept). For everything else, “Thanks” sounds like an understatement, so use a more heartfelt “Thank You” instead. They went on to comment that greater acts of kindness qualify for more appreciative “Thanks a lot” or “Thank you very much” – depending on how formal the relationship between the speakers is. I was grateful for this early lesson which has allowed me to watch how exactly I thank people. When in doubt, I would err on the side of an overstated way to thank a person, rather than inadvertently undermining their effort.
Different ways we say “thank you” have a different impact on people. Everyone wants to know they are appreciated – it creates positive feelings and fosters better relationships. So, it’s best to make sure to express our appreciation in the most suitable terms. Also, as much as it makes the other person feel good, there are tremendous benefits that true gratitude grants us when we express it. Here are the three top reasons to become a more grateful person:
Counting our blessings does makes us happier as it shifts our focus from what we don’t have to what we do have in our life to be grateful for. Most importantly gratitude stops us from endlessly comparing our life to the life of other people which always looks more glamorous from afar, through the filters of Social Media. If something less desirable happens in our life, it’s easy for us to focus on the negative and forget all the great things we have in our life. That’s why expressing our gratitude intentionally, even writing down in a journal the things we are grateful for is a good exercise for keeping us optimistic about the future.
When we are feeling optimistic we believe we can achieve more. So this renewed confidence in our abilities enables us to focus on what else we want to have in our life and makes us work harder towards achieving our goals. I learned about a study that correlated goal achievement with gratitude. Participants were asked to state the goals they had for the following 2 months. Then only some of them were encouraged to keep a journal to write down what they are thankful for on daily basis. By the end of the experiment, those people who kept a daily gratitude journal were much closer to achieving their goals.
Showing gratitude makes us more likable. This is a very important trait in any social situation, including work – whether we manage people or deal with co-workers. Being grateful doesn’t mean you cannot criticize when work quality needs improvement. It means that if you establish yourself as someone who appreciates people, values their ideas and efforts – in general, your opinion will be trusted much more. And when the time comes and you have to criticize someone’s work it will be taken well, people will know your criticism comes from best intentions and you have their best interests in mind. People will be much more likely to listen to your feedback and sincerely strive for improvement. Bringing out the best in people will allow you to advance in your own career. Besides, as you stop dwelling on any negativity, you will increase your productivity and quality of the work you produce.
Coming out of the long Thanksgiving Weekend (at least here in Canada), have you thought what you are grateful for in your life? How do you express your gratitude?