Feeling Gratitude and Not Expressing it is Like Wrapping a Present and Not Giving It
“Feeling Gratitude and Not Expressing it is Like Wrapping a Present and Not Giving it”. – William Arthur Ward
I recently read an article in which Google CEO Larry Page was praised for being one of the most likable CEO’s in corporate America. You know why? Because according to the article, he’s good at expressing his appreciation for others and the work they do. In fact, I also came to learn that making a concerted effort to express gratitude in the workplace is baked into the Google culture and in indirect ways likely plays a role in the company’s overall success. Google does this, not just because saying thanks is a nice thing to do (though one could argue that’s reason enough), but also because, as they freely admit it’s a powerful motivator.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately – no, not so much about Google. I’ve been noodling on the relationship between motivation and gratitude in our everyday lives. And you know what I’ve found? They really do go hand and hand.
Here’s what I mean. Think for a minute about the myriad interactions you have each week in which you find yourself trying to cajole, persuade and/or motivate someone to do something. It could be at home, at school, at work, on a ball field or one of a million other places. Often I know when I’m in one of those situations – you know engaged in some really important matter like, trying to get my kids to NOT leave their dirty socks littered throughout the house – I find I frequently resort to a carrot or stick approach to motivate them to do a task they’re otherwise, clearly not motivated to do. I’ve found this usually works – in the short run. But, naturally I suppose, after some time goes by the reward, bribe, punishment, threat or whatever carrot or stick method I’ve enlisted inevitably loses its effectiveness. For them, it has no meaning and has become expected. And you know why? – Because, we’re human and humans respond to emotional triggers. So for short tasks a carrot or stick approach (which may trigger pleasure or pain) works. But in order for humans to stay motivated for a lengthy period of time – whether it’s motivation to continue to do well in our profession, or perform well in school, or achieve a certain level of fitness, or just keep our house clean we need to feel intrinsically motivated by the work. In other words, we need to feel it has meaning or a sense of purpose.
Of course, the reality of life is that sometimes we’re obligated to do things – like make dinner, do the laundry, care for a loved one or pick up our dirty socks – that aren’t always intrinsically motivating but need to be done all the same. So, then what?
Well, here’s an idea. Why not express your gratitude for their effort? Did you know that a study conducted by Wharton Professor Adam Grant, (author of the best-selling book, Give and Take) shows that the single best motivator is actually a simple “thank you?” In fact, Dr. Grant’s research also notes that people who feel appreciated are often willing to work harder or do more!
Now knowing this don’t you think it’s ironic that many of us seldom bother to say thanks to others for doing routine work because we think either that the person knows how we feel so saying it seems unnecessary or, we believe they’re already being rewarded for their work in some other tangible way and that is their thank you. Perhaps that’s true, but if you’ve ever found yourself slogging through some awful chore (that isn’t the least bit intrinsically motivating) you know how uplifting a heartfelt sense of appreciation for that effort can be.
So with that in mind, I’d like to make a suggestion. The next time you encounter that co-worker, client, family member, or student that you’ve been trying to motivate to do something, try giving them the gift everyone loves to get and, better yet, costs you nothing to send. Give them a heartfelt, “thanks!”
Oh and one last thing, I’d also like to express my sincere gratitude to you dear friend for reading this post!