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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Faces so often say so more than our words ever could. Even more than words and behaviour, faces tell the story of where we (and our nervous systems) are right now. Receive their joyful faces and their brave faces. Their scared faces and their sad faces. When their words are spicy and big their behaviour is bigger, receive their faces. Their faces won’t lie. And neither do ours. By receiving their faces it will open the way to show them, ‘I see you. I feel you. I’m with you.’♥️
Parenting was never meant to be about perfection. Neither was growing up. The messy times are so often where the growth happens - theirs and ours - but this can only happen if we can be with ourselves through the mess, with an open heart and an open mind. But this can be so hard some days! 

Let’s start by shoving the idea of perfect parenting out the door and let’s do that with full force. Perfection. Ugh. Let’s not do that to ourselves and let’s not do that to our young loves. It’s okay for them to see our imperfections, and it’s okay for them to lay theirs bare in front of us. We won’t break them if we yell sometimes. They will learn from our mistakes, and we will learn from theirs.♥️
If the feelings that send them ‘small’ don’t feel safe or supported, the ‘big’ of anger will step in. This doesn’t mean they aren’t actually safe or supported - it’s about what the brain perceives. 

Let them see that you can handle them in all their feelings. Breathe and be with - through their tears, or confusion, or lostness. Just let their feelings come, and let them be. Feelings heal when they’re felt. Big feelings don’t hurt children. What hurts is being alone in the feelings. Your strong, loving presence, your willingness to be with without needing them to be different, and certainty that they’ll get through this will hold them steady through the storm. If they don’t want you near them, that’s okay too. Let them know you’re they’re if they need.♥️
Brains love keeping us alive. They adore it actually. Their most important job is to keep us safe. This is above behaviour, relationships, and learning - except as these relate to safety. 

Safety isn’t about what is actually safe, but about what the brain perceives. Unless a brain feels safe, it won’t be as able to learn, connect, regulate, make good decisions, think through consequences. 

Young brains (all brains actually) feel safest when they feel connected to, and cared about by, their important adults.  This means that for us to have any influence on our kids and teens, we first need to make sure they feel safe and connected to us. 

This goes for any adult who wants to lead, guide or teach a young person - parents, teachers, grandparents, coaches. Children or teens can only learn from us if they feel connected to us. They’re no different to us. If we feel as though someone is angry or indifferent with us we’re more focused on that, and what needs to happen to avoid humiliation or judgement, or how to feel loved and connected again, than anything else. 

We won’t have influence if we don’t have connection. Connection let’s us do our job - whether that’s the job of parenting, teaching - anything. It helps the brain feel safe, so it will then be free to learn.♥️
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#parenting #parentingforward #parentingtips #mindfulparenting
The stories we tell ourselves influence how we feel and what we do. This happens to all of us. These stories can be influenced by our mood, history, stress - so many things that are outside of what’s actually happening. 

When our children are in distress, this will start to create distress in us. The idea of this is to mobilise us to protect, but when that distress happens in the absence of a ‘real’ threat, it can throw us into fight or flight. This can influence the story we tell ourselves. This is really normal.

Whenever you can, pause, and be open to a different story. It won’t necessarily make the behaviour okay, but it will make it easier to give your child or teen what they need in that moment - an anchor - a strong, steady, loving presence to guide them back to calm. 

When their brains and bodies are back to calm, then you can have the conversations that will grow them: what happened, what can you do differently, what can I do differently that would help?

The truth is that they are no different to us. In that moment they don’t want to be fixed. They want to feel seen, safe, and heard.♥️
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#parenting #parenthood #mindfulparenting

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