Yesterday I went to our local UPS Store to drop off a number of packages. My hands were full. I was doing the classic “chin press” to keep the tall stack intact as I walked towards the door.
As I got closer, I realized I had too few hands available to open the door on my own.
At that point, a gentleman walked out of the store and held the door open for me. “Great timing,” I said. “Thank you!” He smiled and went on his way.
It was simple for me to express thanks. I genuinely appreciated his help.
When we were growing up, it is likely that adults around us – parents, teachers, etc. – coached us to say “please” and “thank you” to others, often. This was common courtesy, proactive expressions of gratitude to others whom we interact with daily.
The problem with common courtesy is that it ain’t so common around these parts anymore. Why is that?
I believe it’s because we pay more attention to our smartphones than we do to our environment or to others in that environment. I believe it’s because our society is so polarized. Online and IRL, people are more likely to point out how others are wrong and unlikely to find shared values. I believe that our Western individualism – our “I, me, mine” focus – encourages us to win while others lose.
Those beliefs and practices will reduce how frequently I say please and thank you.
We can learn from a recent study featured in USA Today. Researchers at the University of Georgia found that when married couples regularly express gratitude to their partners, the receiver feels appreciated and believes their partner values him or her. Those feelings and beliefs increase one’s commitment to the partnership and increase your belief that the marriage will last.
Study co-author Ted Futris says that one’s partner expressing gratitude is the “most consistent significant predictor” of happy marriages.
This practice – expressing gratitude – has a huge positive impact in the workplace, as well. In work cultures where team members proactively praise and encourage both efforts and accomplishments, productivity goes up, customer service goes up, and employee engagement goes up.
In Tiny HR’s 2014 Engagement and Organizational Culture Report, 44 percent of employees provide peer recognition on an ongoing basis. This study also found that only 18 percent of the least happy employees praise others while 58 percent of the happiest employees express gratitude.
When researchers asked employees “what motivates you to excel and go the extra mile” in your organization, employees reported that their peers are the number one influence.
The study also found that only 21 percent of employees feel strongly valued at work. That means that 79 percent of employees feel undervalued due primarily to a lack of recognition and appreciation.
There just might be something to this common courtesy thing. The research is compelling. Express gratitude daily. Expect nothing in return. Just be present and observant. When people do things that help others, say thank you. When people make progress on their work tasks or home tasks or neighborhood tasks, say thank you.
You’ll feel better. They’ll feel better. And the things that you’re praising and encouraging? People will do more of them – because they’ve been thanked for doing them.
It can’t hurt. You’re going to be on the planet anyway. Let’s try this expressing gratitude deal.