In my Social Psychology class this week, we read a study about expressing gratitude to others. The study talked about how those that express gratitude often undermine how surprised and grateful people will be. We undermine that gratitude of ourselves but also the gratitude of others from simply expressing it. Why is that exactly? Why is it so surprising for us to give and receive gratitude?
When we are younger, we are taught “basic manners” such as saying please and thank you. Saying thank you is the most simple form of expressing gratitude. We teach these basic manners to children in hopes that they will continue to carry them on throughout their lives, but then we stop emphasizing it so much when we begin to grow up. Shouldn’t it become more important as we grow older, entering the big world that we learned said manners for?
I’m not exactly sure why it stops being emphasized towards adults but something that we addressed in class was how we change when we grow. Some people may struggle to speak about how they feel, some people express gratitude through actions, and others simply don’t find it necessary to say it often.
As adults, I think it is much simpler to buy things as thanks rather than say it because people are so used to spending money. They put a value to the gratitude they want to express and then equate it to something that they can buy. With the emphasis our lives force us to put on money, it feels as though the default to saying thanks is buying gifts, which isn’t a bad thing, however, you can eventually tell how grateful a person really was depending on what they have gotten for you.
I find that I don’t say it that often, my issue being that it is harder for me to express my emotions to others. It feels very vulnerable to express myself even in simply saying thank you for small actions of kindness.
Expressing gratitude also just ranges from different things, not everyone can express their gratitude verbally and find other ways to express it. Some ideas that we discussed were simply buying someone a coffee, holding the door open, buying food, spending quality time with them, and so much more.
I feel that the reason it has become so much harder to express gratitude verbally is that we as adults have gotten so used to doing it in other ways, through actions rather than words. And that isn’t a bad thing at all, but sometimes the verbal expression can mean so much more and hit deeper than actions because it has gone somewhat out of style.
After this class, I reflected on the fact that I often don’t express gratitude and rely on materialistic ways to give thanks. It opened my eyes to the fact that a simple verbal “thank you” could mean so much to someone; it could make them feel better about themselves and the relationship they have with you.
So, if you have a hard time saying thank you, don’t second guess yourself. There is no need to always go out and buy a gift to express thanks, as a simple thank you can do so much on its own. There will come a time when expressing gratitude is foreign, and it shouldn’t get to that point, because at some point in our lives, we are grateful for something or someone, and being able to express that is special in its own way.