Beyond good manners: thank you works!

by Betty Lochner on November 22, 2010

Okay, so we all know that we should be polite and say “thank you”, right?  It’s good manners, it shows you care, it’s the right thing to do.

Well, now we have another reason to make saying thank you a habit. Recent studies by people that study this stuff (also known as positive psychologists), have found that saying ‘thank you’ is not only good manners, but it will motivate the “thank-ee” to be helpful in the future.

This new series of studies on gratitude, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by M. Grant and Francesca Gino (2010),  wanted to find out what effect gratitude has on the person who is being thanked. Does it motivate and, if so, is it just by making people feel good, or is it more than that?

What they found, of those studied, was that when gratitude was shown, the person receiving the thanks was 100% more likely than those that received no thanks for their deed to offer assistance in the future. Wow, you can’t get much better results than a 100% increase!

The experimenters found that people weren’t providing more help because they felt better or because it boosted their self-esteem, but because they appreciated being needed and felt more socially valued when they had been genuinely thanked.

This feeling of being valued overcame the reasons why we may not be inclined to help in the first place. The main reason people don’t offer help is that we are often unsure our help is really wanted and we know that accepting help from others can feel make us feel inadequate or a failure.

The simple act of saying “thank you” reassures the helper that their help is valued and motivates them to help again.

I should note that these studies mostly looked at situations where strangers helped each other. It’s possible that the effect of a thank you on future helpfulness is more powerful on people we don’t know, because strangers are more cautious about helping each other in the first place.  So, whether this holds true for your sassy teenagers – not so sure.

So, say thank you!

For many of us, expressing our thanks is an everyday occurrence, and we tend to think nothing of it. But psychologically it has a very important role to play for both the person giving and the person receiving.

These studies prove that gratitude is more than just having good manners; it reassures others their help was actually appreciated and it encourages further helpful behavior!


Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of  Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Warren Dent December 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm

I think our current frenziedelectronic world is much to blame here. Email. instant messages, texting have taken away some of the simple courtesies we grew up with. ‘Thank you’ is a nice example of the high touch world we once all inhabited. I’d sure like to get more of it back…

2 Sharon Larson December 17, 2010 at 6:47 am

Betty, you have given out some information here that answers some big questions I’ve had around this gift-giving time of year. It can be so wonderful to give to people who appreciate the gift. Whether we are giving the gift of our time or a gift wrapped in pretty paper, we NEED to feel like we’ve made a difference. I’m going to try to remember to be even more appreciative of people’s efforts. Even the little things should be noticed; what may seem pretty small to us a receiver might be a large sacrifice on the giver’s end. So, I’m going to show my appreciation for it all! Thanks, Betty! You are valued by me! 🙂

3 Diane December 14, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Thank is so under utilized along with please. It just takes a moment and when said with sincerity it can change the temperature of the whole exchange. How many times have you had a store clerk or business person say thank you lately? Even little things deserve a thank you.


4 Betty Lochner December 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm


Yes, it is amazing! And so simple!

5 Betty Lochner December 7, 2010 at 5:21 pm

Beth, great point — be as specific as you can when giving gratitude!

6 Betty Lochner December 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm

Kimberly, I love your comment “I try to avoid people who I know do not show appreciation or gratitude.” That pretty much says it all!

7 Kimberly Gauthier Photography, Portrait Photography December 7, 2010 at 8:51 am

Saying Thank You is such a simple way to make someone else feel good. We all want to be told that we did a a good thing and this is such a quick and easy way to really make someone’s day. It makes me sad when I come across adults and children who don’t understand this simple idea. I know that I work harder for people who appreciate what I do; I try to avoid people who I know do not show appreciation or gratitude.

8 Betty Lochner November 29, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Wow, Andrea, that’s a great example! I may have to use that one!

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