Building Relationships: Put gratitude into words!!!March 20 , 2014

Are you ready to have your world ROCKED with one of the most secret and surprising tips on how to improve your relationships?

Here goes:  Look for the good in others and TELL THEM what you appreciate about them.  Often.

I know.  I know.  Earth-shattering, isn’t it?  While this bit of advice may be blindingly obvious, it’s also VERY effective.  If you want to improve any of the relationships in your life, take note…

The research

Couples:  John Gottman has been studying relationships for over 40 years in dozens of studies with thousands of couples.   By watching a couple interact over an area of disagreement for just a few minutes, he can predict relationships that will be successful and those that will fail with over 90% accuracy.  One of the key determinants of success or failure is the ratio of positive comments to negative comments.  Couples that happily stay together are those who have at least 5 positive comments to each negative one.  So if you often share (…ahem…) constructive criticism with the people you care about, you need to share at least five affirmative statements to keep yourself in the healthy relationship zone.

Business Team:  Similar research has been done on business teams in research led by Marcial Losada.  In his most well-cited study, he recorded an hour-long strategic meeting with over 60 business teams.  His researchers carefully coded every statement as either positive or negative.  Later he evaluated each team on objective data, including profitability, customer satisfaction and evaluations by superiors/peers/subordinates.   Those teams that were independently shown to be high performing – (i.e. highly profitable and well regarded by those with whom they did business) had positivity ratios around 6:1, meaning 6 positive statements for every negative one during their meetings.  By contrast, low performing teams had positivity ratios well below 1:1 and mixed performance teams had ratios around 2:1.*  This does not mean burying your conflict among nice little lies; it means looking for what is working, sharing those with your team and encouraging them to do the same.

Transfer your gratitude list to words

Last post I talked about creating a simple gratitude list for your relationships.  In this simple task, you write down 3 things that other people have done for you that you are grateful for and/or three things that are working in your relationships.  And do this daily for two or three weeks.  By regularly looking for things to appreciate in the people in your life and in your relationships, you can actively rewire your brain over time to find more of what’s going well.

This week is all about putting that gratitude list into action by sharing them with the people in your life.  This can exponentially increase the amount of positive emotions that you and your friends/coworkers/lovers feel.  Simply turn your gratitude list into actual conversations and texts, email messages and Facebook posts.  You get an initial dose of happiness by looking for and finding what’s going well.  You get another boost by sharing it with someone else.  They get a nice kick from receiving that appreciation which strengthens their bond with you.  And this can often prime them to look for the good in you or other people which can continue spiraling these good feelings and tightening bonds through your whole social network.  It’s a win-win-win-win-win!!!

As you make more of a habit of looking for and sharing what is good, not only does it retrain your brain to find more of these and share them more often, it can change the social script.  For some reason, so many of us greet each other with our problems or what’s difficult in life.  This happens at home, with friends and at work.   For many of us, our default social script is about how little time we have, how hard we’re working, who’s gotten in our way or created trouble.   You have the power to change this and set a new social script over time by bringing up the things that ARE working and the things that are going well.

What to do

Just do it.

Seriously.  Get out a piece of paper right now.



Make a list of 5 things that someone has done for you over the last 24 hours.  These don’t have to be life-changing,  OMG-THANK YOU, types of things.  Just simple little things, like someone holding the door for you or giving you a smile.  One of your kids doing something nice or a partner or friend making a good meal for you.  There is particular power in the small things that we all often take for granted.  Look for those and write ‘em down.

Now add a couple things that work well in one of your relationships.  Not necessarily something new or that has just changed, but just something this person does that makes life a little easier or something you know other people struggle with in their relationships.

Now pick at least 3 of these things and let each of these people know what you noticed and why.  Be as specific as you can while also being succinct.  You can send a quick 2-line email or a text or post to their FB wall or go down the hall and tell them.   Don’t defer it.   Do it right now.

And then check in with yourself.  How does it feel to send that appreciation?

Ongoing Practice

The key to making long-term change in your happiness and the strength of your relationships is to integrate these activities into your life in an on-going way.   Take a minute now to think about how you can best regularly share more positive comments with the people in your life.

Perhaps you want to go through the above process once per week or a couple times a month.  If that sounds good, put those reminders into your calendar now and include a link to the blog version of this post (

You can also formalize it with other people.  A lot of the companies I work with start their weekly team meetings with one person sharing something they appreciate about another one in the group.  Lots of couples do something called an appreciation shower, where you simply take turns saying positive things about the other, until you run out of things to say (or the comments just get too silly…).  These kinds of exercises can be done with anyone and can make a huge difference.

And if you want to make significant change and really lock in stronger neuro-pathways for noticing and sharing the good stuff, I’d recommend taking on one of these two habits.  Three weeks of a daily practice of either of these will help train your brain to notice and share the good stuff.   Details linked here:

Gratitude.  Focus this on your  relationships or keep it broader.  Both are beneficial!

Conscious Acts of Kindness.  Add in-person conversations as an option on top of daily email/texts.

All relationships can be improved with authentic words of positive appreciation.  Look for the good in others and express it to them.  Simple.  Powerful.  Do it!

Eric Karpinski,  The Happiness Coach

*  There has been some scientific criticism of some of Losada’s work with Barbara Fredrickson in December of 2013.  This challenged another part of this research and findings.  However, the research discussed here remains valid.

P.S. Want these posts by email?  Sign up on the right. 

P.P.S. Want to share the post?  Click on any of the links below:

Don't forget to share this post!

follow us


Get a FREE copy of Eric's book, "The 6 Happiness Habits; Increase Your Joy and Drive Your Success" by signing up for my Happiness Infusion email list. (the book will be delivered to you within 2 days)


Related Articles