Have you ever been too shy to express gratitude towards someone? Or you’ve felt too awkward to phrase your appreciation for something? Well, this new study says that you should try not to worry about it so much.
A pair of researchers have published the results of a series of trials in which they studied how people gave and received letters of gratitude. What they found was that expressing and receiving appreciation increased well-being for both parties – but people’s self-consciousness also made them less likely to express their appreciation in the first place.
In the experiments, the researchers asked hundreds of participants to write an email to someone close to them expressing their appreciation for the relationship and naming a specific example of how that person bettered their lives. The writers were then asked to predict the recipient’s possible reactions to the letter.
Across all races, gender, and age, the writers consistently underestimated the positive impact that the email would have on the recipient. They also assumed that the recipient would feel more awkward and uncomfortable over the letters than they actually were. Contrary to the writer’s belief, the letter recipients were consistently more appreciative, warm, surprised, and understanding to the emails than the writers predicted them to be.
“Expected awkwardness and mood were both correlated with participants’ willingness to express gratitude,” says the study results, which were published in the journal Psychological Science.
“Wise decisions are guided by an accurate assessment of the expected value of action. Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own—and others’—well-being.”
So next time you’re feeling hesitant about expressing your appreciation for your friends, family, and relationships, just remember that it will most likely go a lot better than you think.
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