When I started writing online full-time six years ago, understanding that most of my communication with co-workers and work contacts would come via e-mail -- a pothole-pocked sector of the social networking universe where the laws of civility often don’t apply and the context in which someone conveys a sincere opinion or emotion can be easily misconstrued -- I followed two very simple rules that have served me well ever since.
1. Don’t say something in an e-mail or on a message board you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. (I learned this lesson a long time ago during the dawn of the Internets almost 20 years ago.)
2. No matter how heated the conversation gets, always say thank you, acknowledging that you respect the honest exchange of ideas, at the very least, especially when people disagree (as they always will).
The first one keeps me out of trouble even when conversations get very testy, while the second is a conscious and sincere decision of mine to express gratitude for keeping the lines of communication open at all times. If this sounds a bit too touchy-feely or new-agey for your tastes, speaking from experience, a consistent, sincere "thank you" keeps the conversation pleasant, respectful and open even in the presence of 180-degree disagreements. It’s just the better, higher road to go, in my opinion.
So, imagine my surprise when I discovered this series of studies from a Florida State University researcher about the benefits associated with expressing gratitude not only to friends and loved ones, but the personal ones related to communal strength, the amount of responsibility one person feels for another.
You can read more about the study specifics in the links below, but here’s an important quote from lead researcher Nate Lambert, who works in the psychology department at Florida State University, that sums up his thoughts and mine quite nicely. "The person doing the thanking comes to perceive the relationship as more communal, to see the person more worthwhile to sacrifice for, to go the extra mile to help out. [And] those who are being thanked will often feel the urge to reciprocate. … It can become kind of an upward spiral."
Indeed, it can…
Psychological Science March 5, 2010 Free Full Text Study
healthfinder.gov April 11, 2010