The Secret to Being Well-Liked (And It’s Easier Than You Think.)

There is a word that does almost as much in its absence as it does in its presence. It’s one of the earliest words we are taught and is right up there with ‘yes’ and ‘no’ for importance.

The word is ‘thank you’, and now the research is in on why it matters so much.

Research has previously demonstrated the importance of warmth (friendliness, thoughtfulness) and responsiveness in maintaining relationships and facilitating new ones.

One of the ways is by and enhancing the way an interaction is perceived and remembered later on.

A recent study has looked specifically at the role that expressing gratitude plays on social relationships, and has found that saying ‘thank you’ does more than tick the good manners box.

Extending, or not extending, gratitude affects the way we are seen by others. Saying thank you gives the impression that you are someone who has the potential of forming a high-quality relationship, making it more likely that others will seek an ongoing social relationship with you.

The Australian-led study was based on the find-remind-and-bind theory of gratitude, which suggests that gratitude:

  1. underpins new relationships (find);
  2. steers people toward existing relationships (remind); and
  3. enhances and maintains both (bind).

The study specifically tested the ‘find’ part of the theory.


The Study: What They Did

The study involved 70 participants who were asked to act as mentors to high school students by giving the students advice on a writing sample they were intending to use for their university admission.

All participants later received a handwritten note from their supposed mentee. Half the notes were simply an acknowledgement of their advice. For the other half of the participants, the note included an expression of gratitude from the mentee, ‘Thank you SO much for all the time and effort you put into doing that for me!’

Participants then completed a series of questionnaires to measure their impressions of the mentee and advised that if they wanted, they could reciprocate and leave the mentee a note. This was done to see how gratitude affected the formation of a social connection. It was left up to the participants to decide whether or not they left their contact details in the note.

What They Found

The participants who received a note that expressed gratitude were over one third more likely to extend the effort to continue the relationship by leaving their contact details, compared to those who only received an acknowledgement.

Researchers found that the mentees who expressed gratitude were seen as being significantly warmer people.


Those who express gratitude are not only seen as warmer, but are more likely to engender gratitude from others.

Gratitude also facilitates social connections, with people more likely to ‘find’ grateful others because of their perceived warmth.

‘Our findings represent the first known evidence that expression of gratitude facilitates the initiation of new relationships among previously unacquainted people,’ explained research and psychologist Dr Lisa Williams.

Perceived warmth is an important element of building and maintaining social relationships. It’s easy to dismiss a simple ‘thank you’ as unimportant but research clearly says otherwise, showing it to be an important factor in how others perceive us.

Scientists have found that on top of this, gratitude has plenty of other benefits. It can:

  1. strengthen immune systems;
  2. lower blood pressure;
  3. increase positive emotions such as joy, optimism and happiness;
  4. promote generosity and compassion; and
  5. diminish feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The core of gratitude is expressing appreciation for what you have rather than what you need or want.

 Lack of appreciation is a major contributor to the downfall of relationships. People on their way out of a relationship commonly report ‘not feeling appreciated’ as a major reason for their decision to leave.

Saying ‘thank you’ is an acknowledgement that enough has been given, and that the effort is not only notice, but appreciated. Saying it with eye contact is a way to ensure an impact. Few things convey more warmth, generosity and openness.

It’s no wonder then, that in a world that often feels like it wants more from us, ‘thank you’ can be a game changer in relationships, new and old.

2 Comments

Barbara Couturier

I am alone, have been for four years. My husband died, my daughter decided his life insurance money was hers not mine, literally physically moved me in with her and in 3 months it was gone. “She said she wanted me gone yesterday.”

Told everyone I was a drug addict, including my Grandchildren. In the state I was in it appeared so.
I lost everyone and everything.

I got off all the pills, but those pain meds I still need them. I don’t take them. Wheelchair bound its soon,
all that is left for me is a medicare rest home.

I am what happened to me.
I am sad lonely I sound bitter but I am afraid.

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When things feel hard or the world feels big, children will be looking to their important adults for signs of safety. They will be asking, ‘Do you think I'm safe?' 'Do you think I can do this?' With everything in us, we have to send the message, ‘Yes! Yes love, this is hard and you are safe. You can do hard things.'

Even if we believe they are up to the challenge, it can be difficult to communicate this with absolute confidence. We love them, and when they're distressed, we're going to feel it. Inadvertently, we can align with their fear and send signals of danger, especially through nonverbals. 

What they need is for us to align with their 'brave' - that part of them that wants to do hard things and has the courage to do them. It might be small but it will be there. Like a muscle, courage strengthens with use - little by little, but the potential is always there.

First, let them feel you inside their world, not outside of it. This lets their anxious brain know that support is here - that you see what they see and you get it. This happens through validation. It doesn't mean you agree. It means that you see what they see, and feel what they feel. Meet the intensity of their emotion, so they can feel you with them. It can come off as insincere if your nonverbals are overly calm in the face of their distress. (Think a zen-like low, monotone voice and neutral face - both can be read as threat by an anxious brain). Try:

'This is big for you isn't it!' 
'It's awful having to do things you haven't done before. What you are feeling makes so much sense. I'd feel the same!

Once they really feel you there with them, then they can trust what comes next, which is your felt belief that they will be safe, and that they can do hard things. 

Even if things don't go to plan, you know they will cope. This can be hard, especially because it is so easy to 'catch' their anxiety. When it feels like anxiety is drawing you both in, take a moment, breathe, and ask, 'Do I believe in them, or their anxiety?' Let your answer guide you, because you know your young one was built for big, beautiful things. It's in them. Anxiety is part of their move towards brave, not the end of it.
Sometimes we all just need space to talk to someone who will listen without giving advice, or problem solving, or lecturing. Someone who will let us talk, and who can handle our experiences and words and feelings without having to smooth out the wrinkles or tidy the frayed edges. 

Our kids need this too, but as their important adults, it can be hard to hush without needing to fix things, or gather up their experience and bundle it into a learning that will grow them. We do this because we love them, but it can also mean that they choose not to let us in for the wrong reasons. 

We can’t help them if we don’t know what’s happening in their world, and entry will be on their terms - even more as they get older. As they grow, they won’t trust us with the big things if we don’t give them the opportunity to learn that we can handle the little things (which might feel seismic to them). They won’t let us in to their world unless we make it safe for them to.

When my own kids were small, we had a rule that when I picked them up from school they could tell me anything, and when we drove into the driveway, the conversation would be finished if they wanted it to be. They only put this rule into play a few times, but it was enough for them to learn that it was safe to talk about anything, and for me to hear what was happening in that part of their world that happened without me. My gosh though, there were times that the end of the conversation would be jarring and breathtaking and so unfinished for me, but every time they would come back when they were ready and we would finish the chat. As it turned out, I had to trust them as much as I wanted them to trust me. But that’s how parenting is really isn’t it.

Of course there will always be lessons in their experiences we will want to hear straight up, but we also need them to learn that we are safe to come to.  We need them to know that there isn’t anything about them or their life we can’t handle, and when the world feels hard or uncertain, it’s safe here. By building safety, we build our connection and influence. It’s just how it seems to work.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting
Words can be hard sometimes. The right words can be orbital and unconquerable and hard to grab hold of. Feelings though - they’ll always make themselves known, with or without the ‘why’. 

Kids and teens are no different to the rest of us. Their feelings can feel bigger than words - unfathomable and messy and too much to be lassoed into language. If we tap into our own experience, we can sometimes (not all the time) get an idea of what they might need. 

It’s completely understandable that new things or hard things (such as going back to school) might drive thoughts of falls and fails and missteps. When this happens, it’s not so much the hard thing or the new thing that drives avoidance, but thoughts of failing or not being good enough. The more meaningful the ‘thing’ is, the more this is likely to happen. If you can look behind the words, and through to the intention - to avoid failure more than the new or difficult experience, it can be easier to give them what they need. 

Often, ‘I can’t’ means, ‘What if I can’t?’ or, ‘Do you think I can?’, or, ‘Will you still think I’m brave, strong, and capable of I fail?’ They need to know that the outcome won’t make any difference at all to how much you adore them, and how capable and exceptional you think they are. By focusing on process, (the courage to give it a go), we clear the runway so they can feel safer to crawl, then walk, then run, then fly. 

It takes time to reach full flight in anything, but in the meantime the stumbling can make even the strongest of hearts feel vulnerable. The more we focus on process over outcome (their courage to try over the result), and who they are over what they do (their courage, tenacity, curiosity over the outcome), the safer they will feel to try new things or hard things. We know they can do hard things, and the beauty and expansion comes first in the willingness to try. 
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#parenting #mindfulparenting #positiveparenting #mindfulparent
Never in the history of forever has there been such a  lavish opportunity for a year to be better than the last. Not to be grabby, but you know what I’d love this year? Less opportunities that come in the name of ‘resilience’. I’m ready for joy, or adventure, or connection, or gratitude, or courage - anything else but resilience really. Opportunities for resilience have a place, but 2020 has been relentless with its servings, and it’s time for an out breath. Here’s hoping 2021 will be a year that wraps its loving arms around us. I’m ready for that. x
The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids (and adults). Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic. 

Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what the holidays are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favourite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s about you and your people. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, you will all remember how you all felt – as in how happy they felt, how loved they felt were, how noticed they felt. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

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