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How Gratitude Powers Our Ability to Positively Influence Others

We’ve all experienced those fleeting moments of happy relief when something good occurs during our day. Before we know it, that feeling is gone as quickly as it arrived. What many of us know yet often fail to apply regularly is the practice of pausing on these moments or, better yet, meditating on our gratitude each day.

In the past, I’ve been guilty of this neglect. But more recently, I’ve made a concerted effort, thanks to some of the keynote messages I’ve developed that focus on our appreciation for others. This addition to my speeches has been a great reminder to circle back on a practice — that when I was disciplined about applying it — has always reinforced my belief in how to positively influence others and my future.

Gratitude not only has far-reaching implications for our ability to influence, but a team of researchers recently conducted a study revealing that gratitude is a predictor of two emotions we should never find ourselves in short supply of: our feelings of hope and happiness. Gratitude, hope, and happiness, the researchers say, are inextricably linked and affect our past, present, and future respectively:  

  • Past – Gratitude is the appreciation of something received.
  • Present – Happiness is the enjoyment of a present state of good.
  • Future – Hope is the desire for a valued outcome.

While I like that gratitude has the power to reach into our past, present, and future, the fact that it emphasizes an “others-focused attitude” is what resonates with me. I recall a story that bestselling author Annie McKee told me in a recent LinkedIn Live conversation I had with her. She shared that a friend of hers had a son who was in the hospital with cancer for months, and eventually years. This friend and his wife were incredibly grateful to the doctors and nurses who were caring for their son, but their appreciation landed on yet another recipient.

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Late at night, a gentleman on staff would come in to clean the room, and the father discovered through conversations with his son that this man—not his doctors and nurses—became the most important person in the hospital to him. So the dad started to chat with the gentleman who cleaned his son’s room, and the man said he viewed his job as finding ways to make these kids and their parents happier and healthier. Cleaning the floor might be his task, but his real job was making people feel good. This gentleman clearly appreciated the opportunities he had to positively influence patients by making friendly conversation and cheering them up.

Annie’s friends were incredibly grateful to this very humble gentleman who had a transformational view of his responsibility to patients—an ability that had nothing to do with stature in the hospital. Annie’s story is powerful because it reminds us that influence isn’t reserved for one-dimensional or top-down relationships. More importantly, the story illustrates that gratitude can be relational—not necessarily positional. 

On most early mornings, I like to take time to meditate on someone with whom I can share appreciation, encouragement, or support. I ask myself how I can be a positive influence in someone’s day—especially if they don’t expect it. I’ve become very focused on my growing list of people I’d like to connect with in this way. I feel grateful for these opportunities because it takes the focus off me and puts it on others.

Living up to my keynote message has been a meaningful return to the practices that led me through tough challenges earlier in my career. The research we have about how gratitude reaches into our past, present, and future makes an even stronger case for prioritizing these opportunities every day. And Annie’s story is a powerful reminder that we’ve all got a role to play when it comes to gratitude—whether we’re bestowing it or inspiring it. Either way, I’m all in.

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