There is plenty of research that demonstrates how gratitude can make you happier, healthier, and generally a more psychologically and mentally sound person. That said, can gratitude also make you smarter?
In researching The Next IQ, I interviewed several senior executives in corporations and partners/directors in professional services firms, and I found an interesting pattern. The more grateful a senior leader was for the hire of a new person, the more he/she was open to listening to this new person. This was especially true when a leader felt that his/her organization had to compete to “win” a particular hire. In many situations, the gratitude for a person’s presence in the organization overrode particular biases that may have been triggered about this person!
This got me thinking. If a person’s gratitude resulted in more intellectual openness, could the openness be proactively triggered by activating gratitude? In one organization, we tried this simple experiment: We gave a group of senior managers 8 different resumes, all of which were very similar in educational background and work experience. (The resumes were fabricated but the leaders did not know that at the time.)
Of the 8, we identified two of the candidates as having other offers, thereby necessitating a quick move on the part of the organization. We asked the managers to review the resumes and rank them in order of preference before they met to discuss the candidates.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the two hypothetical candidates that we identified as having other offers were ranked consistently higher than the others, and we saw a greater tendency on the part of the mangers to remember more details about those two resumes than the remaining six. When we debriefed with the managers, we had a robust discussion about how they do often work harder to engage employees who they perceive as having other alternatives.
It cannot possibly be that simple, can it? If we feel that we have to fight for something, do we automatically value it more? Yes, we do. And, the more we value something, the more we are grateful for it being in our lives, and the more grateful we are for something, the more we are open to it. The more open we are to something, the more it can inform and enhance our thinking.
My work in coaching managers and leaders has borne this out in varied ways. If someone can identify ways to be grateful for someone on their team, the gratitude opens up a greater level of awareness of what this team member is doing, saying and wanting. If we can learn to be grateful for those who have perspectives that are different from (and even contradictory to) our own, our ability to enhance our intelligence increases because we become open to their perspectives.
Gratitude = Intelligence? I would love to hear your thoughts!
-By Arin N. Reeves