As our thoughts turn to 2021, we explore how and why to give thanks, not just at Christmas but throughout the year. How can gratitude improve our wellbeing and strengthen us for the challenges ahead?
‘What do you say?’, is a refrain that many of us remember from childhood. Parents anxious to instil polite behaviour in their offspring, work hard to ensure that any act of kindness or gift is gratefully received with the appropriate ‘thank you’. This happens so often, that it becomes a knee-jerk response. Automated gratitude - whilst important for manners - becomes merely a standard ritual to help you function successfully in society.
The Bible teaches that it’s better to give than to receive, and again this is an idea that has passed down through the generations and become a recognised ‘saying’. Certainly, anyone who has felt pleasure at giving will undoubtedly confirm the benefits to the giver. But, if the receiver is truly grateful and expresses their thanks sincerely, the benefits are multiplied all round.
Automated thankful social norms and acknowledged universal truths, are however accepted into daily life without much critical consideration. To improve wellbeing, particularly in the context of the workplace, gratitude needs careful thought.
Gratitude which is sincerely given and deeply felt has real benefits. Feeling thankful lifts spirits and makes one feel good. We attribute value to what we cherish – and that comes in the form of all sorts of non-monetary intangibles in nature, music, friendship, shared experiences and so on. At work, the way we value each other has a direct relationship with the mutual trust, respect and support we are willing to share with one another. And thanking people properly for the things we value in their behaviour and in their work is at the core of a happy and motivated team.
Thanking colleagues is important. How we thank them, and the thought that goes into our gratitude is even more important. Just as when we give praise, our gratitude needs to be specific. A general ‘thank you for all you do’ is fine but it doesn’t let the other person know why you are thankful. It’s just a bit too easy to say, ‘thank you for everything’; it’s even a bit lazy. Everyone likes to be appreciated, but more than that, we need to know what it is that we’ve done, or how we’ve behaved, which has been truly worthy of thankfulness.
If you say, ‘John, I’m so grateful for how well and how promptly you responded to the query from Jamesons – it meant I was able to concentrate on preparing my presentation, knowing they were in good hands’, your gratitude means much more than a glib, ‘John, thanks for covering for me.’ John knows not only that you are grateful but why, and how it helped. Gratitude which is specific means that the other person understands how they have helped and makes it more likely they will want to help you again.
Thanking someone immediately after they have helped you also reinforces the behaviour you are grateful for. A proper ‘thank you’, which is both timely and specific, oils the wheels of cooperation and invites repetition. It also encourages reciprocation. Because if I am thanking John for what he has done for me, my feeling good about that engenders a desire to repay him in kind.
Counting our blessings is said to make us feel happier and to improve our mental wellbeing. Thanking our colleagues for being who they are, for supporting us and for working collaboratively with us makes us feel better too. And it ensures we are in a better place to address whatever challenges lie ahead in 2021. Being grateful for what we’ve achieved this year, for what we’ve learned and how far we’ve all come, puts us in a strong position for what comes next.
If thanking our colleagues properly means that they feel good about themselves, have a greater self-belief, and know that they are valued, we benefit from that too. Because giving thanks is its own reward. And strengthens the team overall.
Finally, I’d like to thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read this. And if you’re a customer, or someone who has called us this year, or a subscriber to our free resources, or a viewer of our videos, or a participant from any of our virtual workshops, a heartfelt thank you to you. Your time spent with us is appreciated. You have given us a strong sense of purpose and made us feel good in this unusual year. For that we are grateful.
Catherine de Salvo
4 December 2020
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