Thank-you notes aren't a relic of the past — research suggests even a quick email of thanks can pay off in spades

Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design/flickrSaying ‘thanks’ can be surprisingly helpful for you and your relationships.

  • Thank-you notes are common etiquette after an interview, but research suggests we’re more hesitant to express gratitude in everyday life.
  • We may shy away from saying thanks because we believe it won’t be received as positively as it really is.
  • We also believe the recipient will feel awkward to hear us express our thanks, but we overestimate that, too.

We know to thank servers and take the time to write the perfect thank you note following a job interview.

But when it comes to saying thank you to those who have had a more permanent presence in our lives, we’re not as likely to step up. As Business Insider’s Shana Lebowitz reported, 97% of survey respondents said they thank restaurant waiters, but less than half of women in the survey said they regularly thank their husbands.

Why not? According to recent research, we might be too tied up in our own fears and assumptions to send thank you notes to the people who have helped us most.

Amit Kumar at the University of Texas at Austin andNicholas Epleyat Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago enlisted hundreds of participants, or “expressers,” to write thank you notes. The expressers wrote to people who have influenced their lives in meaningful ways, detailing what the person had done and how it helped them.

The expressers were asked to predict how the recipient would feel about the note – their discomfort, surprise, and happiness.

Then, the researchers asked those recipients how they actually felt. The differences were remarkable.

“Expressers significantly underestimatedhow surprised recipients would be about why expressers were grateful, overestimated how awkward recipients would feel, and underestimated how positive recipients would feel,” the researchers wrote.

By not understanding that saying thank you is almost always a strongly positive choice, Kumar and Epley wrote, we’re avoiding the actions that would benefit ourselves and others.

Otherresearch, meanwhile, has suggested that expressing our gratitude is highly beneficial. A 2010 study said everyday gratitude acts as a relationship “booster shot,” making the expresser and the recipient feel better about the relationship.

And it’s not just our friends, romantic partners, coworkers, family members, or Uber driver we need to thank. We also need to express gratitude to ourselves, Lebowitz reported from “The Gratitude Diaries,” a book about gratitude by Janice Kaplan.

“When you give yourself that positive boost,” Kaplan previously told Business Insider, “it does help you move forward and does help you do better in the future.”

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