Gratitude should be earned, not expected

It’s that time of year when social media posts remind us to ‘Thank a farmer’.

“If you ate today – thank a farmer!”

“If you enjoyed your Thanksgiving lunch – thank a farmer!”

“On this Thanksgiving Day remember to say ‘thank you’ to all the hardworking farmers who don’t get the day off.”

While all of this is true, it’s important to remember two things (aside from the fact that there are thousands of other people across Canada who will also be working on the Thanksgiving holiday, some of whom, like truck drivers, played an integral role in getting your meal to you as well):

  • Gratitude should be about strengthening our relationships with those we rely on (consumers on farmers, farmers on consumers – without whom we’d be pretty much raising food just to feed ourselves).
  • Gratitude should be earned, not automatically expected.

As Heidi Grant Halvorson, author and associate director for the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia University Business School, puts it: “Expressing gratitude to someone who helps you keeps them interested and invested in having a relationship with you over the long haul.” The important lesson Canadian ag can pull from this is that gratitude is a two-way street.

Survival Tip

Sara Algoe, Laura Kurtz, and Nicole Hilaire, researchers at the University of North Carolina, have defined two categories of gratitude: other-praising and self-benefit.

Other-praising ‘acknowledges and validates the actions of the giver’, while self-benefit gratitude is about how the receiver is better off for having been helped. Through several studies they showed that other-praising gratitude was strongly related to responsiveness, and positive and loving emotions.

Generally, most people commit the cardinal sin of gratitude: we focus on how we feel rather than on the benefactor. By focusing on how happy we feel or how we benefited (e.g.: our ag businesses grow), we’re creating an environment where the consumer won’t see themselves as helpful, which in turn lowers their self-worth and, consequently, their motivation to support you.

While you may not exactly be looking for a loving consumer relationship, the benefits of other-praising far outweigh the more ego-centric approach of traditional gratitude.

In that vein, we should remember to thank consumers for asking questions that help them learn more about what we do and thank them for supporting Canadian ag and, by extension, our families and rural communities.

As many of us have no doubt experienced personally, a lack of acknowledgment can quickly sour a relationship, resulting in people actively not wanting to help you. In fact, a set of studies conducted by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino demonstrated that when someone wasn’t thanked their future rates of helping people were immediately cut in half. Organizations like Farm & Food Care work hard to build trust between Canada’s farmers and consumers; let’s not ruin that relationship by omitting a simple ‘thanks’.

While who benefits more from the farmer-consumer relationship is a bit like the chicken and the egg conundrum, it’s important to remember one thing: gratitude can be the glue that holds the farmer-consumer relationship together. Practice it wisely.


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