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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Thanks so much @maggiedentauthor♥️…
“Karen Young - Hey Sigmund has such a wonderful way with words especially around anxiety. This is her latest beautiful picture book that explains anxiety through the lens of the Polyvagal theory using the metaphor of a house. This shows how sometimes anxiety can be hard to notice. I think this book can help kids and teens better understand stress and anxiety. I loved it! This would be great for homes, schools and in libraries.
Congratulations Karen.💛”
Of course we love them, no matter what - but they need to feel us loving them, no matter what. Especially when they are acting in unlovable ways, or saying unlovable things. Especially then.

This is not ‘rewarding bad behaviour’. To think this assumes that they want to behave badly. They don’t. What they want is to feel calm and safe again, but in that moment they don’t have the skills to do that themselves, so they need us to help them. 

It’s leading with love. It’s showing up, even when it’s hard. The more connected they feel to us, the more capacity we will have to lead them - back to calm, into better choices, towards claiming their space in the world kindly, respectfully, and with strength. 

This is not about dropping the boundary, but about holding it lovingly, ‘I can see you’re doing it tough right now. I’m right here. No, I won’t let you [name the boundary]. I’m right here. You’re not in trouble. We’ll get through this together.’

If you’re not sure what they need, ask them (when they are calm), ‘When you get upset/ angry/ anxious, what could I do that would help you feel loved and cared for in that moment? And this doesn’t mean saying ‘yes’ to a ‘no’ situation. What can I do to make the no easier to handle? What do I do that makes it harder?’♥️
Believe them AND believe in them. 

‘Yes this is hard. I know how much you don’t want to do this. It feels big doesn’t it. And I know you can do big things, even when it feels like you can’t. How can I help?’

They won’t believe in themselves until we show them what they are capable of. For this, we’ll have to believe in their ‘can’ more than they believe in their ‘can’t’.♥️
Sometimes it feels as though how we feel directs what we do, but it also works the other way: What we do will direct how we feel. 

When we avoid, we feel more anxious, and a bigger need to avoid. But when we do brave - and it only needs to be a teeny brave step - we feel brave. The braver we do, the braver we feel, and the braver we do… This is how we build brave - with tiny, tiny uncertain steps. 

So, tell me how you feel. All feelings are okay to be there. Now tell me what you like to do if your brave felt a little bigger. What tiny step can we take towards that. Because that brave is always in you. Always. And when you take the first step, your brave will rise bigger to meet you.♥️
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#anxietyinkids #consciousparenting #parentingtips #gentleparent #parentinglife #mindfulparenting #childanxiety #heywarrior
If anxiety has had extra big teeth lately, I know how brutal this feels. I really do. Think of it as the invitation to strengthen your young ones against anxiety. It’s not the disappearance of brave, or the retreat of brave. It’s the invitation to build their brave.

This is because the strengthening against anxiety happens only with experience. When the experience is in front of you, it can feel like bloodshed. I know that. I really do. But this is when we fight for them and with them - to show them they can do this.

The need to support their avoidance can feel relentless. But as long as they are safe, we don’t need to hold them back. We’ll want to, and they’ll want us to, but we don’t need to. 

Handling the distress of anxiety IS the work. Anxiety isn’t the disruption to building brave, it’s the invitation to build brave. As their important adult who knows they are capable, strong, and brave, you are the one to help them do that.

The amygdala only learns from experience - for better or worse. So the more they avoid, the more the amygdala learns that the thing they are avoiding is ‘unsafe’, and it will continue to drive a big fight (anger, distress) or flight (avoidance) response. 

On the other hand, when they stay with the discomfort of anxiety - and they only need to stay with it for a little longer each time (tiny steps count as big steps with anxiety) - the amygdala learns that it’s okay to move forward. It’s safe enough.

This learning won’t happen quickly or easily though. In fact, it will probably get worse before it gets better. This is part of the process of strengthening them against anxiety, not a disruption to it. 

As long as they are safe, their anxiety and the discomfort of that anxiety won’t hurt them. 
What’s important making sure they don’t feel alone in their distress. We can do this with validation, which shows our emotional availability. 

They also need to feel us holding the boundary, by not supporting their avoidance. This sends the message that we trust their capacity to handle this.

‘I know this feels big, and I know you can do this. What would feel brave right now?’♥️

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