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The attitude of gratitude

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Gratitude, according to PsycNET, a database of psychological research, has exploded as both a field of research and as a topic for media attention. Published articles on gratitude have been increasing exponentially for the past 20 years and research on gratitude, according to UC Davis psychology professor Robert A. Emmons, reveals that “it enhances one’s personal and relational well-being and is quite possibly beneficial for society as a whole.”

The very fact that gratitude research has become, according to Emmons, a “growing science” suggests the platitudes increasingly pronounced from pulpits and in Thanksgiving editorials like this one, are rooted in scientific fact.

Being grateful, it seems, really is good for you. And it may also be good for the bottom line. For many people, more accustomed to complaining than applauding, expressing gratitude may be too much like learning a foreign language to come easily to hand. The ratio of good news to bad news reported in most media is so heavily weighted to the negative side of the scale that choosing gratitude over grumbling may seem both Pollyannish and irresponsible.

But in the most pragmatic and bottom-line-driven environment imaginable – American corporate sales – gratitude has become an increasingly popular marketing tool, as cynical as that may sound.

Both Forbes and Fortune have reported on the trend of giving thanks as part of corporate planning and policy. Fortune reported on the experience of a Washington, D.C., area limousine service CEO who explained, “Instead of going after new business, we decided to go back to old clients and thank them, and develop relationships.”

Fortune also quoted University of Richmond marketing professor Randy Raggio who said, “Gratitude motivates positive reciprocal behavior.” Regio explained that if a customer believes a business has his best interests at heart, that customer is more inclined to develop a long-term relationship with the business.

It’s a Thanksgiving impulse and a common exercise to create lists of the things for which we’re grateful. That, gratitude experts say, is a worthwhile first step. But moving gratitude from a list to a lifestyle requires a second, more dynamic step, they say – you have to share it, give expression to it, make it real by setting it in motion.

Which means that the dynamic power of gratitude is directly proportional to the degree others experience it. It’s nice for us to remind ourselves that there are conditions and qualities in our lives for which we are grateful. But if no one knows that they’re the objects of that gratitude, it loses a lot of its power.

With that in mind, we’d like to take this opportunity to share our gratitude with the many thousands of readers who include us in their lives on a daily basis, who continue to read a newspaper at all, especially this one, and who share their thoughts – positive or negative – with us and with all our readers.

We are profoundly grateful to be a part of this remarkable community and to have the opportunity to encounter and cover so many truly beautiful people and the stories of their lives.

Thank you.

  • Phineas Worthington

    Thank you Mr. Bolling and everyone at the IT for all the good work you do and for providing the format in which such ideas can be published and discussed. And thanks to everyone else who cares enough to take the time to contribute to the public civil discourse on the ideas and values we seek to promote in our lives together.