15 Mar The Power of Gratitude
Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on March 17, 2015
Sending an email thanking, for example, for a meeting with contacts, is a common practice in many countries. Not in ours. Calling or sending a message the following day to thank for an invitation (to dinner or lunch) is also not very common, even among friends or family. Very few people do that. Thanking for what is received – beyond a dry “thanks” – is generally a very uncommon gesture in our country.
I have always been intrigued by how little we Peruvians are in the habit of thanking. Do we feel that by thanking we lose power or are seen as weaker by those to whom we “owe” gratitude? Is it that we do not like “owing” anybody anything? If I give thanks, will I have to return the favor? Maybe we do not say thank you more because deep down we feel that we deserve – or are entitled – to the kindness or courtesy received? Is it that we lack the generosity to show respect or gratitude towards someone who does something for us or for the common good? Or is it a sign of pure and simple insecurity?
The fact is that in many other cultures, giving thanks has to do with good manners and politeness. Even in school children are taught to send correctly written thank you notes. Peruvians just do not have the good habit of acknowledging and thanking people for the courtesies or favors received from them.
Imagine this situation: you host a dinner party at home for your friends.
You make an effort for them to have a good time and are thrilled to share what you have prepared for them. Doesn’t it feel great when your friends call you the next day to tell you how happy they were, how much they enjoyed the meal, the ambience and the company and, above all, how much they appreciate the effort and affection you have put into inviting and hosting them! That call fills your soul, doesn’t it?
It is the same at work. When we are thanked for a job well done, we feel valued and recognized. We receive that very necessary emotional salary, especially if the recognition is timely, personal, and given in the right measure. Appreciation and recognition, though they are so important and necessary, are very scarce in the work environment. For example, 79% of talent resign due to lack of recognition (the second reason is lack of growth opportunities).
So, what could we thank more or better? Favors we ask, advice we receive, information we are given, time spent on us, meetings we request, thoughtful gestures towards us. And how do we express our thanks appropriately? Depending on the situation and the relationship, with a timely call, with an appreciative email, with a handwritten note for more significant occasions, some detail, sometimes a smile or a sincere gesture of sympathy is enough. But always timely, sincere and genuine, not merely to observe a formality.
Giving ourselves a moment to thank, appreciate and acknowledge what others do for us – at work and in our personal life – is a very clear and positive way of demonstrating our respect and appreciation. Thanking others makes both sides feel great and always strengthens the relationship. That is the true power of gratitude!