A new Australian study suggests that the act of expressing gratitude to a new acquaintance for their help makes it more likely that they will seek an ongoing social relationship with you.
Thus, the courtesy of saying “thank you” has value far beyond the literal connotation.
“Saying thank you provides a valuable signal that you are someone with whom a high quality relationship could be formed,” said psychologist Dr. Lisa Williams, who conducted the research with Dr. Monica Bartlett in the U.S.
The study, to be published in the journal Emotion, involved 70 university students who provided advice to a younger student. Some of those advice-givers were thanked for their advice.
The study was designed to test an emerging theory on how the emotion of gratitude can benefit individuals and society.
This find-remind-and-bind theory suggests gratitude helps people develop new relationships (find), build on existing relationships (remind), and maintain both (bind).
The current study tested the first aspect of the theory, finding.
The university students were led to believe they were mentoring a high school student, and were asked to comment on a university admissions essay, supposedly written by the mentee.
In reply, all mentor participants received a handwritten note from their supposed mentee.
In about half the cases the note included an expression of gratitude: “Thank you SO much for all the time and effort you put into doing that for me!”
The university students who were thanked were more likely to provide their contact details, such as their phone number or email address, for the mentee than those who were not thanked. The grateful mentees were also rated as having significantly warmer personalities.
The results suggest that the reason why people “find” grateful others is because of this perceived warmth.
Although the study findings may seem like common sense, this kind of experiment had not been conducted before.
“Our findings represent the first known evidence that expression of gratitude facilitates the initiation of new relationships among previously unacquainted people,” said Williams.
The message is especially relevant in today’s world given the widespread adoption of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
“New studies may investigate if observing someone express gratitude increases another person’s desire to form a relationship with them,” said Williams.
Source: University of New South Wales