Expressions of gratitude have a number of positive effects, such as helping us savor pleasurable experiences, manage stress, and strengthen relationships, researchers have found. In negotiation and other contexts, showing gratitude also motivates those we thank to keep on giving.
In a series of experiments, researchers Adam M. Grant and Francesca Gino examined why expressions of gratitude motivate helpful acts. In one experiment, student participants were asked to edit another student’s job application cover letter. Students who were thanked for their help felt socially valued, such that they were more than twice as likely as those who were not thanked to help edit a second cover letter for the same person.
Helpers’ sense of being socially valued had more impact on their future willingness to help than did any positive mood or sense of competence that was generated by being thanked. The results show the power of a simple thank-you to inspire cooperation.
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Why “Thank You” Matters
These findings have many implications for anyone who works in a team setting. For one, that the helpers were motivated based on the creation of a feeling of social value rather than self-efficacy shows that while thanking co-workers and employees for their contributions may not improve their skills, it is definitely a helpful tool for maximizing their potential. Additionally, the experiments show that just thanking someone for a job well done could not only make it easier to negotiate with that person later on, but also that this is liable to improve cooperation throughout your organization.
Thinking creatively to ensure that each person involved in a negotiation walks away from the deal happy can be challenging. Fortunately, fostering an environment that will promote win-win negotiations is easy.
Find the Right Leadership Voice
When the poet Walt Whitman wrote, “Surely, whoever speaks to me in the right voice, him or her shall I follow,” he conveyed the notion that persuasive communication is fundamental to effective leadership. Whitman’s words also underscore the importance of shaping leadership communications to meet individual concerns, interests, and styles.
When deciding how to communicate, recognize that the words you choose, such as a simple thank you, reveals something about you and your relationship with the person you are trying to lead.
Share a story below of how a simple thank-you in negotiation turned things around for you.