Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Saying "Thank You" is Hard

It's an odd feeling to be giving a sincere compliment. You want to appreciate the moment, but it also reminds you that you could be let down. In one part of his long, fascinating Atlantic article reporting on a longitudinal study of happiness Joshua Shenk touches on this phenomenon,
But why, he asked, do people tell psychologists they’d cross the street to avoid someone who had given them a compliment the previous day?

In fact, Vaillant went on, positive emotions make us more vulnerable than negative ones. One reason is that they’re future-oriented. Fear and sadness have immediate payoffs—protecting us from attack or attracting resources at times of distress. Gratitude and joy, over time, will yield better health and deeper connections—but in the short term actually put us at risk. That’s because, while negative emotions tend to be insulating, positive emotions expose us to the common elements of rejection and heartbreak.