We often hear that gratitude is the key to happiness. In a lot of ways, it is also the key to meaningful communication and connection.
Oftentimes relationships with those closest to us, be it your partner, your children, your parents; get eroded away over the years by resentment. Resentment is the opposite of gratitude. It's feeling like you deserve more than you got; and it's what happens when you build up expectations that don't get fulfilled.
Resentment is a relationship killer.
It doesn't matter how justified you feel in your resentment, if you approach a relationship with the mindset that you aren't getting what you inherently deserve, then improving that relationship is going to be extremely difficult. (There are a few exceptions to this: Situations of abuse, neglect, and severe mistreatment cannot be fixed simply with gratitude. And if you find yourself in a situation like this, talk to a professional about next steps.)
Gratitude puts you in a better place to connect with others.
People that act entitled commonly struggle with social anxiety and maintaining healthy relationships because they are difficult to find common ground with. Being ungrateful is simply not a good way to live and makes you unpleasant to be around and difficult to work with.
Seeking out gratitude reverses your position from feeling "deserving" of things you don't have, to feeling undeserving of all that you do have. This leaves you feeling joyful, blessed, and happy.
Chances are, if you are reading this, you have a computer and internet access. That already characterizes you as one of the most fortunate people in the world. That being said, there is no excuse to not practice gratitude. So how do you do it?
Make a Gratitude List
If you've ever read about gratitude, you probably knew this suggestion was coming. Gratitude lists are common, and it's because they are effective. Tomorrow morning, wake up ten minutes earlier and make a written list of all the things you are grateful for. Focus your list towards things you are grateful for in your relationships. Here is an example:
- I am grateful that I have a partner who values my opinion.
- I am grateful I have a Wife who tells me she loves me all the time.
- I am grateful that I have a brother who is always there for advice.
- I am grateful that I have a boss who is considerate of the fact that I have kids.
Try This Exercise:
Write something about every person in your life with whom you would like to establish a deeper connection. Focus specifically on relationships you are currently struggling with.
Here comes the hard part: Next, tell these people exactly what you wrote down. Call them, tell them in person, even include it at the end of an email. You don't need to tell them that you made a gratitude list, just find an informal way to mention what you appreciate in them.
Doing this might make you feel a little vulnerable and that's OK. For some reason, letting people know what you appreciate from them can be disarming. But it will open up a dialogue and make them feel valued by you at the same time. And that is the first step forward in establishing a better connection.
Gratitude takes practice and repetition, so I recommend making this list once a month and continuing the habit of relaying your list to the people included on it. It might seem like a small gesture, but over time, it will have a large impact not just on how the other person feels, but on how you view your relationship with them in general.