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Join in on the Journey to Showing Gratitude (a 30-day Challenge)
Editor's Note: This is a guest post by Karl Staib. [fl_builder_insert_layout slug="karl-staib-post"] “I don’t want to appear weak,” my coworker told me.
I was surprised. He was a good guy, but he didn’t really want to show his gratitude for anyone.
At first I was shocked, but then I understood.
He came from a military background. There was not a lot of time to pat people on the back. You had to move on to the next mission.
As I drove home that night I realized that a large portion of our culture has gratitude all mixed up. We think if we are vulnerable and share how much we appreciate someone that they’ll laugh at us or not care at all.
I know that’s true, because being vulnerable by showing gratitude is something that still scares me. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for over three years, and writing what I’m thankful for can still fluster me at times. I often don’t know what to write, and if I try to write something nice about someone, the voice in my head usually asks, “Do they really deserve it?”
This voice often holds me back from being truly vulnerable with others. It’s a trait I got from my hard-nosed German father — for many of us, our traits come from modeling our parents. We build up these habits and attitudes until they become the story that we tell ourselves every day. We need to be aware of these internal stories so that we can be more conscious of our choices. We can decide to build stronger relationships by being vulnerable and giving thanks.
But it can be hard to put ourselves out there. Whenever my inner voice starts questioning me, I try to pause for a breath. This pause allows me to decide if I want to be the vulnerable person who lets others know how much I appreciate them or the quiet guy who is afraid.
More and more I’m choosing to overcome the fear. It holds me back from truly connecting with the people I work with and interact with online and offline. Now I’m appreciating the people I work with, my family, and people in my community. It’s helping me connect with people on a much deeper level. But I would never have realized how many of my connections were weak if I hadn’t started to express my gratitude and to acknowledge the fear of vulnerability that comes with that.
Sharing your feelings with others isn’t easy. Some of us learn at a young age that voicing our emotions can be painful, so we avoid it. We need to build this feeling-sharing muscle back up. Gratitude is a great place to start because we project ourselves and our feelings to others in a positive, non-threatening way.
Why Gratitude Works
In Edward Deci’s book, Why We Do What We Do, he demonstrates that if you can bring more positivity into your workplace, you’ll increase your team’s productivity by 31 percent. That’s huge! When you take time to celebrate other people at work, they are more productive. If you are a boss, then showing gratitude is an easy way to increase productivity. And if you work with others, it is a great way to build stronger connections.
The key part of appreciating people is to be sincere. You don’t want to spray meaningless appreciation out there. People will see you as inauthentic and tune you out. Besides sincerity, there are two other pillars to sharing gratitude:
Sincere: Do they believe that you mean it?
Appropriate: Are you fully aware of the situation and the person you are talking with? How do you let them know that you appreciate them?
Specific: Do they understand what they did well and why it mattered to you?
This month I want you to take that first step toward being a little more vulnerable. It will help you create more honest conversations with your coworkers and family members, and build stronger relationships with them.
But you will have to be willing to put yourself out there with the people in your life. That won’t happen overnight or even in a few weeks. Changing how you view situations and build relationships with people starts with your mindset.
A simple, effective way to start that mindset change is with a gratitude journal. Every day for 30 days, write what you are grateful for and why. I suggest something like this:
I’m grateful for my cup of coffee because it gives me a little extra boost to start my day.
I’m grateful for my coworker who always takes time to stop by my desk and check in with me because she cares.
I’m grateful for my son because he has helped me build the patience I wished I had five years ago.
These small bites of gratitude are equivalent to exercises for your brain. The more you practice vulnerability and gratitude, the easier both become. You build confidence. You’ll also start to receive gratitude in return. This positive reaction helps complete the emotional feedback loop, which encourages you to be vulnerable with and grateful for the people in your life on a more regular basis. (Tweet this.)