Break out the pen! Writing someone a thank you note makes BOTH people feel better
- Researchers asked participants to write a letter of gratitude to someone
- Writers overestimated how awkward recipients would feel about the gesture and underestimated how surprised and positive recipients would feel
Letter writing may be a dying art, but researchers say writing someone a thank you note makes both parties feel better.
Researchers at the The University of Texas at Austin asked participants, in three different experiments, to write a letter of gratitude to someone who’s done something nice for them and then anticipate the recipient’s reaction.
In each experiment, letter writers overestimated how awkward recipients would feel about the gesture and underestimated how surprised and positive recipients would feel.
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Texas researchers found letter writers overestimated how awkward recipients would feel about the gesture and underestimated how surprised and positive recipients would feel
The researchers say what is significant about the research and its results is that thank-you notes and letters of gratitude should be written and sent more often.
‘What we saw is that it only takes a couple of minutes to compose letters like these, thoughtful ones and sincere ones,’ said Kumar.
‘It comes at little cost, but the benefits are larger than people expect.’
Kumar says anxiety about what to say or fear of their gesture being misinterpreted causes many people to shy away from expressing genuine gratitude.
In one experiment they asked expressers to rate their own competence in saying thanks, along with questions about whether recipients would judge the letter as warm and sincere.
‘We found that expressers may worry inordinately about how they are expressing gratitude — their ability to articulate the words ‘just right’ — whereas recipients are focused more on warmth and positive intent,’ the authors wrote.
‘When we’re thinking about ourselves, we tend to think about how competent we are — are we going to be articulate in how we’re expressing gratitude,’ says Kumar.
That view may create an ‘unwarranted barrier’ to expressing gratitude more often in everyday life, the researchers say.
‘Researchers have known for 15 years that gratitude improves well-being.
‘There’s lots of work done on this already.
‘What was interesting to me is that even though it’s something that’s well-known, people still don’t express gratitude all that often.’