Study: Gratitude Will Make You New Friends

A new study from the University of New South Wales has found that expressing gratitude to new acquaintances will earn you friends. The study was put together to explore a theory that suggests that gratitude helps people create new relationships, build on the ones they already have, and help to maintain both. In an effort to test the “new relationships” aspect of that theory, researchers studied 70 university students who gave advice to younger peers. The students were told that they were mentoring high school students and critique their university admissions essays. Afterwards, the mentors received handwritten notes from their faux mentees, and only about half of those notes included an expression of thanks for assisting them with their essays. The mentors who were thanked were more likely to give the younger students their contact information and presumably continue the friendship. The mentors also reported warmer personalities when it came to the grateful mentees, and that warmth is probably why grateful people make lots of friends.

“Saying thank you provides a valuable signal that you are someone with whom a high quality relationship could be formed,” researcher Dr. Lisa Williams said in a press release. This is the first time an experiment like this has been conducted. “With more people communicating by social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, it would be interesting to find out whether just observing someone express gratitude increases another person’s desire to form a relationship with them,” Williams added. I would think that expressing gratitude online could make someone a more desirable friend, but only if that person understood the very fine line that exists between expressing genuine thanks and humblebragging about how #blessed they are.

Gratitude is kind of trendy these days, as weird as that sounds, and I actually think that’s a great thing. I know lots of people see gratitude journals a little too corny and Oprah-like, and that’s totally fair, but what’s the harm in encouraging people to appreciate what they have? Even if it doesn’t have a life-changing effect for some people, it’s certainly a better energy to throw out into the world than all the hate, competition, and violence that we see every time we turn on the evening news. If anything, it’s a nice counter to the “buy more STUFF” attitude that’s been ingrained into our heads since birth.

It seems like common sense that someone would like to befriend an acquaintance who says thanks because it shows a basic sense of humility, but I think another factor in this is that people just really friends who make them feel appreciated. Do you ever feel woefully unappreciated? It seems like we all occasionally have moments of feeling totally taken for granted by the people we love, even if there’s not always any true reason behind it. Being reminded by an acquaintance that you matter with a simple “thanks” can work wonders, and apparently, make for a great new friendship. In short, gratitude makes people happier in about a million ways. Now I finally understand why my parents told me so many times growing up to always send a thank-you note!


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