How Gratitude Impacts Business

I was recently in Savannah for a mastermind group. I flew in early to spend time with my business thought partner of nine years. It was only the third time we’d been together in person!  Since I was in her hometown, I met her husband, their dogs and some of her extended family. I was incredibly grateful to have that time with her, to see where she worked and lived, meet who she loved, and enjoy some downtime together. And I realized that I felt even closer to her even though none of our conversations had been very personal or profound.

During the four-day mastermind, I spent time with people I’d only seen online. And while I’m grateful to have an online business that enables me to work with clients across North America, I was SO INCREDIBLY appreciative of the time spent in person. At the end of each day, people shared what they were taking away. Each time it was my turn, I referenced gratitude.

I left the mastermind feeling that every connection I’d made, including the one with my thought partner, was now deeper. Not only because we’d been together but because everyone I’d spent time with was also bubbling over with appreciation. The fact that time in person was rare made it special. And our gratitude for that cracked us open. Attendees formed collaborations and made decisions to hire one another.

Woman on the phone drinking coffeeI’ve always been considered an optimistic person. I know one of the sources of my optimism is awareness of what is good in my life. But I’ve also had times in my life where I’ve struggled with gratitude. I went through a divorce. I’ve lost some important people in my life. I’ve had business setbacks. But after everything, I got back on track by focusing on what I had and not what I lost.

There’s scientific evidence to support this connection between optimism and gratitude. Harvard Medical School reported multiple studies show that people who express gratitude are more optimistic and feel better about themselves. The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence published a paper concluding that expressing gratitude completes a feeling of connection with other people.

This research shows that when people do something that positively impacts us, we can build a deeper connection with them by expressing gratitude. This works whether it’s someone you already know well or someone who perhaps spoke at an event you attended but didn’t even get to meet.

Neuroscientists agree. A study compared MRI scans completed on individuals who wrote gratitude letters to the MRI scans of people who did not write letters. The results found that people who wrote gratitude letters had better activation in the medial prefrontal cortex than those who did not write letters. The medial prefrontal cortex responds to things like drugs and alcohol. In other words, showing gratitude lights up the part of the brain as much or more than alcohol or drugs.

Close up of a woman writing in a gratitude journalSo there’s the science: Gratitude improves attitude and deepens feelings of connection. But is it true gratitude impacts business? It means that it’s important to take time to notice the good in the everyday. To really notice it, reflect on it, name it and share it.

It sounds simple, but it’s not always easy because we typically focus on what’s wrong in life. How far we are from a goal. How an employee may be struggling. How to get a client to pay on time.

I once had someone on my podcast who does work very similar to mine. She might have been surprised that I invited her to be a guest. She was very appreciative. I interviewed her and then thanked her for sharing her wisdom. We realized we don’t do the same thing, so she referred a client to me. A week after that, she referred a second client. As of today, she has sent me four prospects, two of whom are now clients.

Gratitude is a muscle. It needs to be exercised regularly or we can slide back into focusing on what’s wrong rather than what’s right.

Look back at your year and make a list of every person who has sent business your way. Every person who has impacted you from a stage, virtual event or otherwise. Every person who has hosted you in their Facebook group or podcast. Send them a thank you card expressing your appreciation. Tell them why what they did matters to you. I promise you will light up your medial prefrontal cortex and feel great. And when they receive the note, they’ll feel equally happy, and your connection will deepen.

If you panic at the thought of writing a thank you note, pick up the phone. Reach out and express gratitude in a way that’s comfortable to you. It doesn’t have to be the perfect message. Gratitude is one of the greatest gifts you can give because you benefit just as much as the recipient.

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