Are You Grateful Enough To Be Happy?

What do you do when surprised with a gift?

And what if it’s at work?

Yesterday I was getting a tour of a corporate university when my hostess, the VP of Learning, was approached by a group of 5 employees. The next thing I knew, one of the guys was reading a short, heartfelt note of thanks from the group for her learning leadership, followed by the presentation of a small gift.

I moved back a few steps so they could savor the moment together. It was clearly a total surprise to the VP. What surprised me was how quickly and deeply she expressed her gratitude, and how articulate she was. It was also more than I think I could offer, given the same set of circumstances. After the group left she continued to beam and openly, but humbly, verbalize her feelings.

Gratitude and Gender

Gratitude–the emotion of joy and thankfulness when responding to receiving a gift–turns out to be one of the foundational ingredients for a good life. This comes from Todd Kashdan, associate professor of psychology at George Mason University. In a recent issue of Journal of Personality, Kashdan noted  the research revealed gender plays a role. Apparently, men are much less likely to feel and express (my italics) gratitude than women. 

No doubt women everywhere are now going, “We already did that research.”

In one study, Kashdan interviewed both college-aged students and olderadults. He asked them to describe, then evaluate, a recent instance in whichthey received a gift.

Thank-you What did he find?

Compared with men, women reportedfeeling less of an obligation and higher levels of gratitude whenpresented with a gift. Additionally, older men reported greater negative emotions when the gift-giver was another man.

Kashdan: “The way that we are socialized as children affects what we do withour emotions as adults. Since men are generallytaught to control and conceal their softer emotions, this may belimiting their well-being.”

He also says that if he had to cite three factors that areessential for creating happiness and meaning in life they would bemeaningful relationships, gratitude, and living in the present momentwith an attitude of openness and curiosity.

What Does This Mean At Work?

Surveys consistently show that employees often say they don’t receive any kind of recognition for a job well done. In many instances, survey data show that some bosses take the posture: “Why would I “recognize” you? That’s why you get a paycheck.”

Maybe there’s more to this than just a lack of gratitude. If we follow the research, we’re looking at a large portion of the population that may not even feel it to begin with. If this is true, then “a job well-done” is one more thing on the intellectual “checklist-of-life” and not something that will prompt recognition, even though that’s all people may really need to get buzzed about their jobs.

So guys, the next time your wife or girl friend tells you what an ungrateful slug you are, at least you can respond with: “Yes, I understand the research indicates you are correct.”

Let me know how that one goes.

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And, if you’d like to learn more about the research above, Professor Kashdan has written a book titled “Curious?,” which outlines ways people can enhance and maintain the various aspects of well-being.


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Steve has designed and delivered leadership and communication programs for some of the world's largest organizations, and has more than 30 years in training, development, and high-level executive coaching. His Roesler Group has created and delivered leadership and talent development internationally for corporations such as Pfizer, Minerals Technologies, Johnson & Johnson, NordCarb Oy Ab, and Specialty Minerals--Europe. Steve is currently involved in the latest update of his Presenting With Impact program, a cross-cultural presentations workshop that has been delivered on five continents to more than 1,000 participants representing nearly 60 nationalities.

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