Whether we are introverts or extroverts, social or anti-social, other people play a big role in our world, and likewise, we play an important part in theirs.
Considering this fact, as we familiarize ourselves with the significance of cultivating gratitude in our lives, exploring how gratitude changes relationships for the better offers us useful insights.
Receiving gratitude, notice how you are impacted
By looking at our own responses when we are the beneficiaries of expressed gratitude, we begin to see some of gratitude’s impacts, and we also plant a seed for greater empathy.
Receiving a sincere “thanks” or a heartfelt sign of gratitude can help brighten our outlook, particularly when we are having a tough time, feeling unappreciated, or feeling worthless.
When we receive a thanks, we can see that the actions we take are positively impacting others, and that our life is a positive force in the world.
This lifts our spirits, gives us motivation to keep trying, and can fill us with a loving energy we often want to spread to others.
For example, there have been times in my life when I began doubting the value of some project I was working on. While I didn’t take on such projects with an expectation of receiving a thanks, there were times when I began to question if my endeavors were benefitting others, and if it was really worth my time and effort to keep working on it.
In many of these cases, a well-timed, out-of-the-blue, and sincere thank you gave me the evidence and boost I needed to keep going.
Each thank you replenished my energy, lifted my spirits, and gave me the drive to dive even deeper into my project. On top of that, it improved my mood enough that I certainly interacted with those around me in a more positive and energized manner.
Giving gratitude benefits the others
In the same way that hearing a thanks can change your feelings and attitude, the thanks you give to another person impacts their world.
Even the smallest sincere thanks can turn someone’s day around for the better and can impact them in a far greater way than any of us might imagine.
When you thank someone, you take an action that communicates many things.
In one go, you show them that you value their efforts and actions, you illustrate to them that they are making your world a bit better than it was before, and you show them that you recognize them as a human being and that their presence and existence is a good thing.
You likely have — or will at some point — run into touching stories where a sincere thank you provided someone the power to make it through an incredibly hard day.
In my personal life, and through the stories of others, I’ve encountered many such tales.
Just this Tuesday I witnessed a small gratitude-initiated transition take place.
While getting my steaming car fixed I saw a customer service representative who was obviously having a frustrating day. In the short time I watched, it was clear the office was short-staffed, there were significant computer problems going on, there were unforeseen issues with one of the vehicles in the shop, and so on.
Even with everything going on the customer service rep was doing their best to maintain a positive attitude and to provide friendly service. Paying close attention though, it was still clear the day was a wearing one.
That’s when I witnessed the impact on the service rep of a customer’s simple and sincere thank you.
The thank you brought a genuine smile to the rep’s face, and it was easy to see some of the weight of the day melt away.
Had I not seen some of the chaos taking place earlier, it likely would have been easy to miss the impact of the thank you and to discount it as an empty exchange. Witnessing the full scene and the rep’s lighter demeanor post-thanks, the positive impact was evident.
Furthermore, there are tales I’ve encountered which share more extreme situations. These situations include times when a person no longer felt like anything they did mattered, and as an extension, they felt that they as a person didn’t really matter.
Happily, in those stories a well-timed thank you was enough to shine a little light into their grey world, and show them that they really did make a positive impact in the lives of others, and that their life did matter.
Of course, a simple thank you is unlikely to instantly and completely change someone’s life.
At the same time though, it truly can be the spark needed to rekindle their inner fire and set them onto a positive path. It can give them strength when they most need it, and it can touch them in a more profound way than we might think possible for a simple “thank you”.
Giving gratitude benefits the world
When you thank someone, beyond just impacting the recipient of your thanks, your expressed gratitude and that person’s altered day impacts the world beyond the two of you.
That person’s better feelings will lead them to interact with others and with the world in a more positive way, thus touching the lives of many others.
Your thank you leads to their demeanor being happier. Perhaps then, their smile will touch someone else who is having a rough time, and then that ripples out to or and more people.
This aspect of gratitude, this cascading network effect, is often difficult to see, let alone quantify. Even in cases where it can be seen, we often overlook it since we are involved in something else, or we aren’t thinking about connecting the various dots.
Regardless, the impact of this rippling effect is significant and important.
At the same time, this rippling illustrates a broader truth about how we can change our universe when we change our internal, and thus our external, relationship with the world. (That’s something for another time though)
Experiencing and giving gratitude benefits you too
Along with its rippling effects, there is another often-overlooked part of gratitude, and in this case it’s the benefits that the giver of gratitude receives.
At its simplest, having something for which to be thankful feels good. Recognizing that, and then expressing your thanks engrains that good feeling deeper into you.
(This happens for a number of reasons: For instance, as you interact with the feeling of gratitude in more ways, you also spend more time considering that gratitude, making the feeling last longer and become more significant. At the same time, your mental processing and physical actions necessitate the use of more of your body’s systems and your brain’s neurons, which has a physical impact on your body and brain.)
Additionally, it can feel good to say thank you for another reason.
When you realize the impact that a simple thank you can have — as touched on earlier — you see the ways your “thank you” can actually help others.
Doing something good for others feels good in its own way. It gives us some purpose and meaning and it reminds us that we can be a positive force without much effort.
Additionally, it creates a small level of reciprocity in the relationship. A person does something good for you and in turn you offer a positive response.
While small, this creates a bond on its own — one which can be grown further — and it lowers the wall that many of us put up.
Simultaneously, your response shows the receiver you value what they do. When they see your appreciation, it fosters a greater willingness in them to do more for you when they can. (Consider for yourself, are you more proactive in helping someone who appreciates what you do for them compared to someone who doesn’t appreciate it?)
For just one of many stories illustrating this, give Nicholas Zakas’ story, The “thank you” that changed my life, a read.
Gratitude benefits relationships
Through the points above, it becomes evident that gratitude makes both parties feel better, it lowers our self-imposed barriers, it opens the doors of communication, and it plants a seed that can be grown further.
As you act with gratitude, you alter your state of mind and the manner in which you interact with people and the world.
Through all this — often unconsciously and beyond gratitude specifically — you end up being a more positive person in your life and the lives of others, thus opening yourself to better and more plentiful relationships.
Growing that beneficial and rippling gratitude
Through the act of cultivation and expression, the impacts of gratitude on your life and your relationships will grow more profound.
(This growth isn’t just a linear growth, it is more compounding and exponential in nature. As you see, feel, and share the benefits of gratitude in your life, you’ll find there is more and more to be grateful for, and the effects of gratitude will start building upon themselves. While it’s possible the process will seem slow at first, there will come a point when you’re likely going to be shocked by the transformations that have taken place.)
Just like with Gratitude Searching, actively looking for the many things about others for which we can be grateful, then appreciating and expressing our gratitude to them are important steps in growing greater gratitude.
The main piece to keep in mind is to acknowledge others. Seeing the good in others and their deeds, appreciating it, and letting them know you do, is what facilitates the multi-person impacts, enriches relationships, and helps build a compounding effect.
(See the Actions to take section for some specific options to try.)
Expressing gratitude benefits the receiver of gratitude, it benefits giver of gratitude, and it benefits relationships — and the world — all around.
Key mindset shift:
- Think gratitude for others.
Realization to consider:
- Expressing gratitude and saying thank you helps in more ways than we usually realize. It impacts multiple lives and grows upon itself. It is truly a key part of a happier, more fulfilling life.
Actions to take:
- Spend time with your gratitude.
- Express your gratitude more frequently.
- Look for the many things others do for you already. Keep an eye out especially for the things done by the people in your daily life since it can be easy to get lazy about thanking them, and it’s also easy to overlook all that they do.
- In the same vein, keep an eye out for the small things that are easy to miss, such as when someone is extra courteous, serves your coffee with a smile, offers extra information they think might help you, and so on.
- Related to serving coffee with a smile, realize that even if someone is doing something merely because it is their job, they are still being helpful to you by doing something you’re willing to pay to have done. Additionally, they have their own battles, and regardless of everything else, they are still human beings. Plus, at the very least, appreciating what they do and thanking them costs nothing while it offers a potential benefit to everyone involved.
- Set aside specific times for more formal “thank you” notes so they don’t get lost to time.
- Overall, simply look for more times and reasons to be and say “thank you” more.
Be well and thank you,
Fellow Journeyer @ BigSkyRise
Please share this story and its more important underlying message — and BigSkyRise — with your friends and connections.