The Gratitude Visit

Saying thank you is such an interesting cultural phenomenon. I’ve ingrained it into my five year old twins that they say thank you when someone does something nice for them. Even my two year old daughter has learned this thing. It’s seen as common courtesy in most Western cultures for pretty much any ‘transaction’ that takes place. From buying your groceries to being served to speaking on the phone to being picked up from the station. It’s just something we do.

So powerful is this simple turn of phrase in fact that when done genuinely, the recipient often doesn’t know how to receive it. Thanks for taking the time to answer my query. Thanks for hearing my side of the story. Thanks for changing your plans to spend time with me. Thanks for delivering on time when you said you would. Thanks for lending me that money for lunch. We mean those words, because the person did something meaningful for us.

In Positive Psychology, one of the techniques taught is about carrying out a gratitude visit. Keep in mind, that the range of techniques used from Positive Psychology are about helping increase the long lasting effect of well-being and feeling good about oneself. Also bear in mind, Positive Psychology is about therapy, and as such involves requiring patients to carry out interventions. With that in mind, let’s carry on. In its purest form the gratitude visit is this:

Through conversation, you encourage Bob to reflect on moments in his life where someone did something that made a positive difference in his life. Bob may identify more than one person, and he needs to focus on one of these people. Through further exploration you need Bob to explain exactly how this person made a difference in his life. That’s the first step.

The intervention requires that Bob goes to meet this person, and explain his gratitude about the difference made in Bob’s life. It is often advised to script this out so you’re clear on what needs to be said. This is the hard bit. Can you imagine it? Having to visit someone with the explicit intention of letting them know why they’ve made a difference in your life? Face to face. With full wavering of voice, face full of emotion, shaking hands, the whole nervous wreck. I’m nervous just thinking about doing this – and I’m awesome at delivering face to face messages.

The lasting effects of such an action are felt months after the act. Read that again. The lasting effects of such an action are felt months after the act. That’s how awesome this intervention is.

Some things to be careful and mindful of. This needs strong support in the whole journey. Bob can’t just be left to his own devices after the event. Not that he’ll derail, but because you have to be able to articulate what’s happened, its importance to you, and what it meant for you. Bear in mind, this is largely used as a therapy technique.

So how do we make this more practical and less intense? Well here’s an option.

Take pen to paper. Or fingers to the keyboard, but that’s such a weak saying. Do the lite version of this right now. Like this.

Think of someone who has made a difference to you, and caused you to do something different. Articulate it in words. Send it to them. And that’s it.

If you get a response, wouldn’t that be wonderful? That lasting effect of feeling good is just waiting around the corner.

So, here’s my gratitude.

David Goddin, thank you in recent times for being someone I can turn and talk to when I have needed it. You have shown me such patience and empathised with me that I am only able to say thank you. I enjoy our conversations, and enjoy the way you help me build on my thinking. I enjoy knowing that I have in you a friend whom I trust implicitly even though we’ve only connected in the last year. Sometimes life brings along a friend you didn’t know you needed, and I regard you a friend.

What do you reckon? Comment below, and share who you would like to say thank you to.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology like the one in this post. Book now to attend and learn more.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

8 thoughts on “The Gratitude Visit”

  1. That’s a very nice post. Its always nice to have manners, often without them they are the first thing you point out as a fundamental “he didn’t even say thank you for me putting x, y and z together”.

    Said at all it means something. Said all on it’s own with no agenda and with a heart felt reason is a wonderful thing. I like the idea of positive psychology…

    Nice post, I enjoyed it 🙂 so thank you for sharing it.

  2. Sukh – I’m humbled and tickled pink – thank you!

    As I read your post and got to your gratitude message my first reactions were surprise, a spontaneous big grin & a feeling of overwhelming appreciation. If you’d shared this with me last night as we sat together I’d have hugged you. For me that says it all. Thank you.

    In friendship! David

  3. Hi Sukh (I hope you don’t get this twice cos I just posted and then it seemed to get lost)
    Thank you for your posting and for all your ways of sharing and being so frendly.

    Expressing gratitude can be culturally different. I was working with a client from Nepal last week who needed to practise saying please and thank you because it’s not a habit in his culture. He is a very polite and respectful person but knew he had to modify his behaviour in his work situation. he did mention his wife appreciated it too. What would we have to do to be seen as appreciative in the Nepalese culture.

    Occasionally in workshops I will ask whether anyone ever gets too much gratitude or praise (could be called appreciation) and it’s very rare that anyone says they have too much so it seems as if we do all appreciate more appreciation.

    Thanks for your posting and for reminding us to show gratitude. And David I think you’re great too and I’m sorry we didn’t have more time to chat the other night.
    But I’m sure I sawy you hug Sukh anyway.

    1. Thanks for this comment, Stella. Yes, you’re very right about the cultural difference in expressing gratitude, which is why I was quite careful to say what I described is common in Western cultures. African cultures also have vast differences in how they express gratitude.

      What I think is important, is that regardless of culture, we can all express gratitude, it just mainfests very differently.

  4. Hi Sukh,

    Thanks to David Goddin for pointing me to your post! Reading it has been time well spent! (I’ve not known David for long but I’ve already seen much of what you mention in your gratitude to him Sukh ;0)

    Stella’s comment about checking in with workshop delegates to ask if they ever get too much praise or appreciation prompted me reflect on some of the conversations I’ve had with my own delegates in the past.

    Whilst some have responded in the way Stella describes, interestingly, many of them expressed discomfort with praise, not really knowing how to accept it and mistrusting it. I suspect this has a lot to do with the culture they work in but I wonder what other factors might be at play here?

    In the context giving feedback, it can also be a struggle to get delegates to offer feedback to their colleagues, because they think that offering positive feedback, i.e. praise and appreciation, makes them appear “soft.”

    Seems that we might have some work to do to make people feel good about saying good stuff!!!!

    Looking forward to the next post Sukh ;0)

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