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Gratitude is a secret weapon for attracting more opportunities (exaltitude.io)
219 points by HannahCr 66 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments

There are a lot of personal attributes and social behaviors that unlock opportunities. In the US a positive attitude, gratitude, and genuine interest are among them. In general just being pleasant to be around and personable will get you far in the engineering world because those qualities are often times lacking. When people managers are making decisions about resourcing I think that they are not honest with themselves about how much them 'liking' a person goes into their decision making process. Same for hiring.

If you are a terse and dour person, it isn't that you will experience more rejection per-se, it is just that opportunities will not even be presented to you because the person with the opportunity doesn't want to spend time in your presence.

Very true.

But always trying to maintain a "pleasant manner" under all circumstances can be exhausting. There has to be sincerity involved else the other person can easily pickup on the fakery. On the other hand i have observed that even when it is obvious that the person is faking it (eg. social etiquette), people seem to be accepting of it in general.

Perhaps the quote, The secret to Success is Sincerity; Once you learn to fake that, You have got it made is true after all. Humans are complex social creatures.

>even when it is obvious that the person is faking it (eg. social etiquette), people seem to be accepting of it in general.

I have found in my career to hold off judgment of "fake sincerity" for two reasons:

A. If the person cares enough to fake it, that's at least a step in the right direction.

B. Over the course of time if the other person continues to radiate "fake sincerity" and no other negative traits, I just assume that I'm too cynical and my judgement of real vs fake sincerity is flawed. apply feedback and adjust as necessary.

That's a good heuristic.

Definitely true - It is difficult to be absolutely factual or objective when it comes to hiring or resource planning. Managers are human too.

Gratitude, kindness, and explicit acknowledgement of appreciation for others really does go a long way.

However, I feel like I've been meeting more people in the workplace who read articles like this and implement it in a robotic, forced manner. Like they're using it as a tool to get what they want out of others, as opposed to a genuine expression of how they feel. Genuine gratitude goes much further than just going through the motions because an online article said it was a good thing to do.

I think so too and I think our entire society is absolutely drenched in this kind of self focused "love", "gratitude" and "kindness". I don't think people are even aware that they are not supposed to distort concepts like that, I don't think they even view it as a distortion anymore. I think they think that love is of course always benefitting them, why wouldn't it? Even though the real meaning of love does not in any way require that there will be a personal benefit in the end. The same goes for gratitude.

It works so well for them because it's extremely hard to peak behind the curtain. You only notice that the other person isn't for real when you see a pattern of actions and results that somehow only ever benefits them. That's when I wisened up to people who use love/etc. as weapons. I think it's almost psychotic how it presents itself in people who subscribe to that because it's a total corruption of the original meaning of the word but on its surface it's the perfect mimic. They act loving, they act gracious 100% of the time. However here is the kicker: They lovingly and graciously evade the outcome or action if there is no benefit for them or work for them to do with no clear upside for them. Suddenly they have all kinds of good excuses why this isn't the right time right now. Suddenly when you realize this pattern, you realize that you are not dealing with a real loving person, you are dealing with someone that uses the skin of love as a mantle.

To test if someone is being loving, or faking it, one could use the below "official bible definition". ;). (often read out at weddings which is pretty important for people deciding to spend decades together)

"1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. "

I think 2 obvious bits of this missing when people fake it are "it is not self-seeking" (just like you said) and "rejoices with the truth". I don't think it's that hard to tell, or rather, if its hard to tell if someone is being loving or not, then unfortunately they probably aren't.

My 2p.. YMMV etc ...

Wow. I thought I was the only person who felt this way. I've met so many people, and am family to even some of these ilk, and with years of thought and analysis I eventually realized this exact thing you've articulated so well in this post, especially in the 2nd paragraph.

I like to call this "toxic positivity". Forced cheeriness about the grind, the hustle, we're all in this together, etc. Better than negativity, but not by much.

I'm not sure it's better than negativity to be honest. Honest negativity is at least honest.

Honesty, yes, that is what is missing.

Why the moral judgments on positive or negative? They both have their place. It’s the moralizing of positive or negative that causes problems in society.

And yes, I blame social media because advertisers love focusing on just the positive and not the negative.

There's definitely some bad toxic negativity (that one British chef that goes crazy with expletives in American shows comes to mind).

But "we can't express negativity whatsoever, we must express that everything is totally fine even when we're wading through shit" is its own kind of horrible.

I've been on projects where I'm genuinely more pessimistic and negative than everyone else. I still think if it's not a project that I want to change or own or feel strongly against, it's my duty to not show that negativity. I won't pretend enthusiasm but I will at least fake positivity enough to try to make sure I don't infect the people around me if they are enthusiastic

that's just a unconventional way of describing constructive criticism in my mind though, which can still be done in a positive way.

Constructive criticism isn't toxic positivity.

Toxic positivity is "all criticism is negative, therefore no criticism".

Like many other tools utilised by powerful leaders/CEOs, mandatory positively, too, is a means to an end.

An excolleague of mine was a "happiness engineer" at a FAANG-esque firm, we discussed the pros and cons of ensuring positive communication is demonstrated in all echelons of the business. We were delighted knowing that although discontent existed in some engineers, the mandatory happiness messaging prevented them from gaining any real traction and material support from the rest of the business, since that goes against the business culture.

Thus, the problematic engineers could be dealt with and removed with minimal impact on the morale and reputation of the company.

I assume this must be a joke since it sounds like something straight out of a dystopic novel. But then again you also talk about doing some "reputation management work with the defense sector" in an older comment, so I'm genuinely wondering if you're serious.

I honestly don't see anything dystopic about it. The end goal of any business and corporation is to make money, and the objective of every manager is to provide value for their stakeholder.

Although at first it may seem awfully bleak, but one must consider the broader implication of maintaining a culture harmony and stability, especially for larger companies in the age of social media, where a small group of disgruntled individual contributors can cause significant reputation damage.

Happy to discuss this further, I am interested in your views too. There could also be a cultural difference as I've mostly worked in India and the Middle East.

What good is money if it won't buy you the services/products you require?

In that case, the goal of the business or corporation or organization is not to make money, it's to create those services/products. Making money along the way is then seen only as an organization tool that allows you to build those services/products by coordinating technology, material, labor etc.

The reward is not the pile of money that you can run off to some Shangri-la with and enjoy a few more years of luxury or whatever, it's seeing the thing you built take form.

This notion might seem alien to our hyper-financialized modern economy (which seems suicidally foolish to me), but this is how industrialists in past eras often thought, and is not entirely unheard of today, either.

> The end goal of any business and corporation is to make money, and the objective of every manager is to provide value for their stakeholder.

This is being stated as if it's some kind of universal law of physics, when it's as far from that as it can be. Modern society is built on past businesses, corporations and managers who did not have those end goals and objectives.

I generally agree that a positive culture lets people focus on their work.

I don't agree that a negative outlook should automatically dismiss someone or their ideas. That's seriously crazy toxic. Some of the best work comes from frustration and it's totally worth it to dig into that resource when you have problems being swept under the rug by maliciously cheery people.

It's not very HN to do this, but "whoosh"

Judging from the commenter's other comment, maybe it's not that whooshy unless they're really committed to the bit: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=33714952

> Please don't post comments saying that HN is turning into Reddit. It's a semi-noob illusion, as old as the hills.

From the FAQ. I'm entirely aware what I was replying to may have been satire, but I don't care. What's it worth to you?

This sounds so endlessly fascinating. I love the idea of this sort of intentional cultural engineering.

Can you give an example of "mandatory happiness messaging"? What does a structured program for that look like?

I went to Disneyland yesterday and I felt that way every time a staff member stopped to wave at us. Dystopian.

It’s like the uncanny valley.

My god, I worked for a company that worked in the HR space and they really lived this to an extreme, and I’d say we lost an hour a day to forced laughs, forced jokes, and forced feel good moments.

I’m pretty sure it’s what triggered an anxiety breakdown for me from having to pretend spending 6 hours a day dealing with broken backend systems and spreadsheets is sparking uncontrollable joy at all times.

I don't think it's "forced" cheeriness as much as an expectation that develops over time as the vast majority looks for a "life hack" and runs that river dry.

Kind of how every salesperson gives the same canned response to any question during a Zoom call.

"So, do you charge extra for single-sign on?"

Yea. Wow. Great question. Many of our customers have asked...

“SSO is free with the Enterprise bundle”

Atlassian: not even then!

LinkedIn post: ”I am humbled and grateful to announce…”

Reminds me of a movie adaptation of "A Brave New World" where everyone greets each other with "Hey how are you I'm great thank you".

When I moved to US I was at first startled when neighbors and others asked me "How do you do?" while walking past me on the side-walk. Of course it just meant the same as "hello". But I wasn't expecting it. So I started thinking how do I do? And what should I tell them about that?

By the time I had come up with some kind of answer they had already passed me by. I didn't realize I was supposed to answer by asking the same question from them, or some slight variation thereof.

Often American visitors to the north of England are very confused when they are constantly asked 'Alright?' or 'you alright, mate?' - one got very paranoid asking me (because I've been in US for 20 year and I am bilingual American/British!!) wtf was obviously wrong with him causing the concern.

I explained it means, essentially, what's up.

If you bumped into a pal and said 'sup and he then went on to explain his day at length that would be weird, right?

American and English, it's almost the same language.

Like in Brazil. “Tudo bem?” “Tudo bem!”

I have a Peruvian friend who had a similar experience. He would relate that when you would ask someone in his country how they’re doing, it was expected that that would be the beginning of a (possibly brief, but probably not so brief) discussion.

This really happened to me :

Person C : "How's Person V doing?" Me : "Sadly he had to go back to India 'cos his Dad died" Person C: "Oh, cool, cool"

What the .... ? Person C clearly wasn't listening , I don't think he meant to be quite so uncaring.. maybe I wasn't meant to actually answer the question....

likewise in Godard's (RIP) Alphaville

I know a person at work that clearly read Dale Carnegie far too often. Hes implemented each strategy precisely and it's a bit exhausting.

But I also suspect it's him building a framework for genuine connection, even if it's templated.

Ugh, one of my least favorite feelings is when I can tell someone is attempting some 'method' on me or a group I'm in. It instantly moves them into the "treat with caution" column in my brain.

This is all true. I cannot control them but I can remind myself to experience gratitude daily. I can also identify appropriate sources for my gratitude lest someone should try to leverage my gratitude for their purposes.

My students have lately taken to thanking me for my time and help every time we speak. It's sort of sweet, but not if some coach told them to do it to attract opportunities. It's getting to where I silently add "Mrs. Cleaver" to every effusive thank-you.

(That is an old-folks joke; you'll just have to duck-duck it.)

Nah, I get the model for obsequious behavior.

I know a person or two who have a natural gift expressing genuine gratitude. I can also imagine that if such a gift was very common the world would be populated mostly by con men.

There's no way around the fact that instrumental kindness, gratitude and appreciation aren't really kindness, gratitude and appreciation.

Gratitude certainly unlocks more opportunities. The neat thing about gratitude is that if you practice it you find inner peace and don’t need the opportunities to be happy.

I've gotten in the habit of reflecting on gratitude whenever I'm sad or in a bad mood. It really changes things around for me personally. You don't have to force yourself, just thinking about gratitude in general is useful.

My wife and I do this regardless of mood: Each night during our moments of quiet time together, we talk about a few things that happened during the previous 12 hours that we're grateful for. This has become one of the best parts of the day for us.

Reviewing the day with gratitude is a core tenet of Ignatian mindfulness. I do an expanded version of the talk with my wife, with God, using a version of the instructions shown at https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-exa...

“My Uncle Alex, who is up in Heaven now, one of the things he found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, "If this isn't nice, what is?"

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, "If this isn't nice, what is?”

-- Kurt Vonnegut

This is one of the tenets of Seneca’s stoicism, as I understand. “It could be worse, therefore I’m grateful it is not…”

I was in a few finance/crypto spaces (voice chat rooms on Twitter) with CEOs/CTOs/industry experts over the past week and it weirded me out how everyone would do this 30 second ass-kissing speech before and after speaking. Some people would even randomly butt in out of nowhere and start giving gratitude to all speakers, triggering a chain of gratitude speeches from other speakers which provided no value at all to the discussion.

Not sure if this is an American/corp-speak thing but it was the first time i really noticed it taking up so much bandwidth in the conversation to the point of annoyance.

This is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symbolic_capital at play and people chirping at each other "are we still friends ? I am you friend. Am I your friend ? yes ? Good, I am also you friend then".

I am a on a cynic ride at that moment so take that with a grain of salt.

But I have seen what you describe in other situations. I have noticed this on US news snippets "Thaaaaank you so much for being here, I want to say I am really glad you came, now about <subject at hand>". I think these people just mimic what they see as "professional" and since it's a chat room... yeah, lots of chirping going around.

It is also possible that with the crypto market imploding at the moment, each one is feeling very vulnerable and is trying to compensate by being particularly ingratiating.

I was going to mention that as a possibility, a lot of these people are likely to be unemployed soon. There was a lot of "We should stay connected, I'd love to exchange Twitter follows/email" type of thing.

I've witnessed it in Europe too. I think it's corp speak.

I've always been profoundly struck by Dostoyevsky's depiction of the devil. In The Brothers Karamazov, the devil says: "My best feelings, gratitude, for example, are formally forbidden solely because of my social position." It's something I think about very often.

Was that during The Grand Inquisitor?

IIRC, it was the night before the trial when Ivan wakes up and the devil goes on that monologue. Just before Alyosha knocks on the door and tells him that Smerdyakov hanged himself.

Transcribed from @mhdksafa:

"I noticed that our lovely janitor gets treated like an outcast, so I made sure to drink my coffee with him daily in front of the gate. Today I was in a hurry to get to my office, so he came to my office with a cup of coffee and awkwardly goes "Thank you for being my friend."

Before I had much of a network, and I was going through recruiters to find jobs, I would give them feedback on the interviews they sent me out on. A lot of times, they only had a vague idea of what they were filling, and this would help them out in narrowing their search.

I know this could have been prepping my own competition. I know that there are lots of opportunities going through each recruiter, and I want them thinking of me. It seemed to work well.

Sometimes you just have to train them, and I was training them to be a better recruiter in general, but also for me.

There's a system at Amazon that lets customer service reps communicate with you after a call. I think it may even be a successor to the one Steve Yegge wrote about whose UI was Emacs.

Anyhoo, I called to complain because of the two orders I placed at Amazon in the past few weeks, one -- a video game -- arrived without media and the other didn't arrive at all. I'm beginning to think that with inflation and Amazon working conditions being what they are, there are people in the fulfillment chain just helping themselves to customer orders and reporting them delivered as intended. The CS rep processed the refund on the second package (I ordered a replacement for the first that arrived just fine) and I recommended she relay my complaints, with a word that these incidents jeopardize my willingness to do further business with Amazon, to higher ups at the service department and she agreed to do so. I thanked her for her help and ended the call.

Few hours later I get an email through this system. The rep, whose name is "Princess", sent a personal note to tell me how much she appreciated how I was on the call, citing my "warm approach".

Wherever you are, Princess, know that it was nothing. It's Jeff Bezos who needs to get his act together, and people like you are just on the front lines, catching hell from cranky bastards like me. I'm happy to show appreciation for help when it is given.

Please avoid the compliment sandwich. And please, as Jerry Springer would tell us, "Take care of yourself, and each other." And don't bounce checks.

People like to think that this is something that you can "just do" if you try hard enough.

While there is some control, much of the positive attributes a person can have are genetic, as much as 50%, I've read. Nothing you can do about it.

For example of this, let's look at infants. We all know some infants and babies are wonderful and everyone wants to be around them, and others are not.

You know what I mean - the baby who smiles and coos and giggles and holds their arms up to be picked up, even by strangers, they are happy and trusting. Meanwhile, some kids cry, frown, are fearful. This all happens in infants, before they even really understand the environment or get kicked in the teeth to make them like that. Kids are like this almost straight out of the womb - 2 weeks into the world.

All I'm saying is that there is a massive genetic component to disposition, I don't think this is too controversial if you think upon it.

So those people who are born with a great disposition go through life that is easier if people like them more.

People with bad genetic disposition can work on it, sure, but they are starting from a 50% disadvantage, and having to work twice as hard is extremely difficult, because it is a 24/7 thing. It's not natural, so you have to be thinking about it all the time, whereas in one with good genetics, they are at 100% right at birth so they don't even have to bother working on being a good person that everyone likes. Opportunities come to them unbidden. Even the people giving the opportunities don't see it that way, they just do it, because...why wouldn't they?

This is only a rough framework, I know there are many variables. It's a stripped down view. But that's how I see it.

Gratitude = Weapon?

Some real 1984 type shit

Weapon does not automatically imply killing and being on the offense.

The existence of weapons can also be used to defend the helpless and conduct peacekeeping actions.

It is important to keep an open mind about this.

I sometimes use my dick as a weapon, but only in defensive situations.

I believe in Hacker News circles this is called “the Erlich Bachman maneuver”

This is even more newspeaky than what the GP was implying

Sure, you can weaponize anything.

But the word weapon here is a much tamer metaphor meaning tool you pick up to achieve victory: resources (usually capital: money, social, cultural etc), many times in an adversarial environment (youll always get some pushback no matter what you're doing).

"Battle" metaphors are common.

We should kill that type of article!


Yeah, this is what the trust fund kids I know keep telling me. I don't get why it works for them and not for me!

Maybe you're just not grateful enough? /s

Maybe I should be more grateful for my lack of gratitude?

Gratitude only works when it's serious, instead of a target metric like described here.

If gratitude is transactional (seen as a way to increase likelihood of getting something later) -- is it really gratitude?

“Once we have made the decision to turn back to the ways of duty, gratitude will flow naturally into us, and… gratitude is the precondition of joy. Only those who give thanks are able to rejoice, for only they are conscious that life, freedom and well-being are not rights but gifts.“

I did like the (probably fantastical) characterisation of Oskar Schindler in Spielberg's movie.

I think what matters more than anything is authenticity. Setting your intention on authenticity with the mindset of appreciation is what allows genuine gratitude otherwise it generates phonyism. Then you get comments like @wolongong942

Gratitude is a secret weapon for pretty much everything.

I mean if you are grateful because it could attract more opportunities you're not very grateful, just opportunist

When I think of gratitude in corporate setting, I get reminded of Mary Beth Brown, the secretary who worked for Elon Musk for twelve years. She got fired for asking a raise after twelve years [1]. I think she must have been more grateful for having a job and should not have asked for a raise.

[1] https://www.quora.com/What-is-known-about-Elon-Musks-long-ti...

Gratitude is overrated and over-applied, and often prescribed disingenuously. Resentment, it's opposite, is poison in the modern world. Resentment is an impulse that amounts to a shallow middle finger, and if you try to use it for long-term motivation you become unstable. Many people turn to intentional gratitude as an antidote to resentment, but it's often an overcompensation.

Become too grateful and you deny the state of the world, your motivation shifts and you become an unwitting agent of the status quo. And maybe the status quo isn't all that bad, but it does prevent striving to make it better. Monks and Nuns of various religions are probably some of the most active practitioners of intentional gratitude. They also have minimal impact on improving peoples' quality of life.

No wonder corporations love prescribing it, corporations are ultimately authoritarian dictatorships and/or oligarchies. Gratitude nips any rebellion in the bud at the lowest possible cost. Why create a startup that out-competes an old, incompetent dinosaur of a business when you can spend those hours appreciating ice cream and the fact that you have a roof over your head, didn't die in a car crash that day, and don't suffer from any chronic diseases that don't usually hit your age demographic anyway?

So by all means, don't be resentful be content, but save your gratitude for improvements, strive to enact those improvements if you can. And don't be afraid to use negative emotion as a pointer for where to start.

> Monks and Nuns of various religions are probably some of the most active practitioners of intentional gratitude. They also have minimal impact on improving peoples' quality of life.

If monks and nuns didnt pursue gratitude so intentionally, do you think they'd improve people's lives more? Seems to me that's just not their role.

> And don't be afraid to use negative emotion as a pointer for where to start

This is so important. My therapist would say that negative emotions like anxiety and anger are information from your body. It's not always useful information, and maybe acting on your first impulse isn't a good idea, but you shouldn't just ignore it because it's supposed to be bad.

“Monks and Nuns of various religions are probably some of the most active practitioners of intentional gratitude.”

This might have been true if research didn’t show that religious practitioners have among the highest levels of mental health and well being.

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