This post comes from a series I wrote as part of a private Tumblr account, way back in 2012. I thought it would be cool to reproduce some of my amateur psychology here 🙂

I wanted to say a few words about gratitude – not in the religious or spiritual sense, but a more practical one.

As humans, we all want to be recognised. We want people to notice us, to take our thoughts and feelings seriously, and we want to be appreciated when we make an effort.

To that end, and following on from what I’ve said about empathy, I think it’s important to express gratitude and appreciation to people who’ve made a positive impact in your life. Be they friends, partners, teachers or shopkeepers…

In the early 80s, as a Star Trek fan, I read a novelisation of the movie “Star Trek: The Search for Spock” by Vonda N. McIntyre. Buried in the story was a scene involving Sulu (played by George Takei in the movie) where he chides another character for failing to accept thanks for saving his life: “At first you’ll think … abuse is the hardest thing to take. But after a while, you’ll see that handling compliments gracefully is an order of magnitude more difficult.”

Many of us turn down gifts, wave away or downplay compliments, or utter “aw shucks” noises in return for thanks or appreciation. When you empathise with another person you realise that this politeness and humility does not create the impression intended – we are, in fact, insulting the other party. If I go to the trouble to thank you, or offer you a gift, or compliment you, then it’s a genuine expression of positive feeling from me. If you then refuse the gift “oh I couldn’t… you shouldn’t have..” then the situation has become awkward, and you’ve rejected the offer and, it can seem, the person themselves. Put yourself in the giver’s shoes – what would you want as a reaction to a gift or a compliment? You’d like it to be appreciated. To that end, I suggest that at the very least, you accept gifts and compliments with the words “thank you” and a smile. The giver knows that their gift has been appreciated, without you coming across as immodest. Give it a try!