Kenan Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Director of the Social Psychology Doctoral Program and the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory, President-Elect, International Positive Psychology Association Kenan-Flagler School of Business
I've mentioned my friend, the late Christopher Peterson before,
because he's the one who's famous for
noting that positive psychology is not a spectator sport.
Now he's even more famous for
another phrase, which he used to sum up all of positive psychology.
He said, other people matter, period.
Now I encourage you to reinforce this universal truth by making a difference in
other people's lives.
Your experiential assignment for this last week is to extend your formal practice of
love and kindness by setting the intention to make three loving connections each day.
This is one way to informally practice love and kindness.
I want you to observe how these new connections change both you and
your sense of community.
Let's get going.
Okay, so I want you to start off today by thinking about
someone who has done something kind for you lately.
How would you express your thanks?
Just take a moment to write out a thank you note to someone who's done
something kind that you just want to acknowledge their kind gesture.
So, what goes into an effective thank you?
How do you?
>> Specificity on what they did, I think, for you.
>> Uh-huh. >> Or,
what you felt that, that you were appreciated.
So, getting real specific.
>> Yeah. >> How it makes you feel.
How it makes you feel.
You know, I've, I was saying earlier that I think love is an all of
the above emotion, and, and I just want to share with you some perspectives that
we've gotten through studying gratitude and how people express appreciation,
that has made me think oh, well, if, if we express appreciation in
a particular way that really becomes a version of love.
And so I want to share with you a, a project that a colleague of mine
Professor Sarah Algoe did in collaboration with my team and
we had a unique situation where we had 77 romantic couples come into the lab.
And then we had each of them think for a,
a moment of something kind their partner had done for
them, and then gave them five minutes to express appreciation to their,
to their partners, and this was something that, you know, each partner did.
And then what's kind of interesting,
people came up with all kinds of things that their partners had done for
them and, and had different ways of, of expressing that and
we right after someone heard someone express appreciation.
They completed a short questionnaire on that kind of got at aspects
of that mutual care that we talked about as being kind of one of the main
pieces of these micro moments of, of positive connection like how, how much you
feel that the other person understands and validates and kind of gets the real you.
You know, like as they're thanking you do they make you feel like,
they really got me oh, that's, that felt great, you know?
So, in this study we had the person the thanker, the person
who was expressing the thanks, and then the person who had done the kind thing,
the benefactor kind of listened to the, the expression of appreciation and
then just noted how that made them feel, and then we let these people go
off into the wild, you know, and just like back into their daily lives.
And we caught up with them six months later, and
before the study started, we had measured relationship satisfaction.
Six months later we measure relationship satisfaction.
We don't think that this one expression of appreciation in the lab is what made
the difference, but we think that how they expressed appreciation in the lab was
probably typical of how they express appreciation and, in more generally.
And one of the things that we found was that people really
differed in what they put into that expression and for
example there what, what I would call sort of a,
a higher quality versus a slightly lower quality way of,
of thinking people and I give you.
They, they can be equally enthusiastic.
I'll give you one ex- example of one couple where the husband was thanking
his wife for picking up a lemon square or
a dessert, I don't know, she had been at some conference or reception, and oh,
that's my husband's favorite, so she took one to the side and brought it home, or
brought it to his office at work, and he was saying thank you for
doing that, that was so thoughtful, and you know.
You don't just, it's not just about the lemon square because at first she was,
like oh, I shouldn't, I know that's your favorite, I should make that for you more
often and he's, like, that's not, it's not about the lemon square, it's just that you
were think about me during your day, and you thought this would make me happy, and
he's like, you don't just do this for me, you do this for everybody.
This is just, you know, some really cool future, that you're very thoughtful and
connected and you are thinking of the people in your life all day long.
So he you know was sharing this story with his wife and
then she rated afterwards how that made her feel
is another example of a couple I want to share with you where the the husband and
the couple said, thank you so much for that guitar you gave me for my birthday.
I love that guitar, it is the most wonderful guitar.
I've been jamming with my friends, learning new songs.
I've been having a great time with that guitar.
You know and it just kind of just was focused a lot on the guitar,
and so when that spouse heard that thank you afterwards, didn't feel so
seen because it was really about him and the guitar, not so
much about her and her thoughtfulness in there.
And so one of things that we discovered here is that people express appreciation
in all kinds of ways, and some people put a, a lot more of the you in the thank you.
>> And really make it a relational thing and
kind of use it as a chance to kind of shine the spotlight on the other person
and other people kind of forget that you part of it.
I mean, they say thank you,
but it's, then it becomes all about them and the thing, you know, the,
the kind thing or the deed or, or that, you know, oh when you made dinner for
me that last night, that helped so much cause that was a really busy day for me.
You know, just kind of it's a little bit of a touch on the you, and
then it's all back to me, and so one of the things that we learned was that
the more other focus that was in these expressions of appreciation,
the more that they served as kind of a booster shot for the relationship so
that six months later people's relationship satisfaction improved.
So it's not like the, the, expressions of appreciation that didn't have the, so
much focus on the other did any harm.
>> Mm-hm. >> We just found that they were inert
you know, like in a way it was like an opportunity that hadn't been
capitalized on or, or realized, but I think it's, you know,
if we can think of ways expressing appreciation that
really help the other person feel seen, that seems to be the key.
So sometimes I think it's kind of eye opening to kind of go back to
the thank you's that you wrote at the start, go ahead and
look at it and say, I wonder how much, I wonder how my friend would respond to
that in terms of set feeling that they felt seen?
When I look at the ways that I've expressed things,
I realize that a lot of times, oh, yeah that does like come too
quickly back to what that kind thing, oh, that was so great for me, thank you.
You know so, there's a way in which, just kind of
reminding ourselves how to stretch back into that other focus and that moment.
It ends up being kind of a booster shot in this way so,
I don't know if you have any connections to thinking about how
thanks works when you receive it or you know, how it factors in, in.
>> I could see no one's being unearthed though because it's kind of
an expectation that you.
I mean, it doesn't always happen-
>> Right. >> But
when it comes back, it's just kind of what's expected.
>> So if you don't personalize it a lot more, then it wouldn't mean much.
Es, especially, I mean, we have cultural scripts around thank-you's.
>> Mm-hm. >> You know, like you,
you teach your kids to say thank you from a really young age, but
it's, you know, it's debatable whether there's an emotional involved in there, or
is it just a script.
So what gets you know, the psychology of it is trying to,
to kind of drill past the, the niceties, the social nicety parts,
and see what's the emotional feel that goes with it.
You know there's, I mean there's a reason we created as a culture these
rituals around things because they can have an important effect but
when they just become a script it can kind of lose their force, so.
>> I like the whole idea of thank you.
I just, is, you know this the time period of Thanksgiving.
Yeah. >> They're trying to do a lot
of thanking and teaching our students to write hand-written thank-you notes,
and I tend to write very long ones because I'm trying to
think about how that person will feel when they received-
>> Yeah. >> And they start reading.
>> So, you know, to encourage them to continue to
do what you're doing because it made me feel a certain way or whatever.
>> Right, right.
So having that real emotion-
>> Yeah. Yes.
>> An empathy.
>> Yes. >> Lens is, is really critical and
that's sometimes something we really miss out when we teach our kids, you know,
it's like oh, you gotta say thank you in this situation.
You know, we're, we're focused a lot on getting the words out.
>> Without, you know, kind of tuning an eye towards the emotional exchange.
>> So, great example, thanks.
>> Yeah, and I think there's, well I know there's a lot to be said about receiving
also is that a lot of times we can just not fully receive like whether it's
thanks or compliments, we can tend to kind of just say like oh you too,
like go ahead and put it on the other person, but to really let yourself-
>> Right. >> Feel that thank you and
really it's like a gift to the other person when you're receiving what
they're giving to you.
>> Yeah, yeah.
And just think, you know, so often we say, oh, it's nothing, you know like, oh,
no, don't sweep it away.
Yeah, take it in, yeah, just in terms of again, we have kind of habits of
interacting that kind of drive right past these opportunities for
positive connections and health and, you know, better community.