How to Practice Prosocial, Altruistic and Empathetic Gratitude - Rolling Stone
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How to Practice Prosocial, Altruistic and Empathetic Gratitude

What benefits have you received from others that you’ve overlooked?

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fizkes — stock.adobe.com

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

In the year A.D. 60, the ancient Roman Empire was a place of great power and great control, with a conquering foothold over half the world. On the outside, it had all the trappings of success. But beyond the surface, it also had the trappings of a society that would eventually crumble.

There was an elder statesman named Lucius Annaeus Seneca, also known as Seneca, who wrote a book called De Beneficiis or On Benefits. In that book, he described the greatest plague to Roman society was that they neither knew how to give or receive gratitude, and that of the vices common in that society, nothing was bigger than ingratitude.

We could argue that a lack of gratitude was a contributing factor to the Romans’ downfall, as their society was involved in political usurping, financial debt, social divide, class warfare, plagues and fake news.

I believe we’re experiencing a similar thing in our society today. We’re politically and socially divided, and we’re a species that’s broken down mentally, socially and emotionally. Mental illness is at an all-time high, and our social and emotional well-being is plummeting. We are lonelier and more disconnected than ever before. From my perspective, if we don’t do the opposite of what Rome did, we too could crash and burn.

If what Seneca said about gratitude is true, then we should probably do something different than the Romans. In fact, our hypothesis is to do the opposite.

A lot of what we do at 7:47 is based on Italian culture. It was actually Rome that saved me from moments of loneliness, isolation, disconnectedness and insecurity. Rome is where I found the dinner table — it’s where I found my purpose of gathering people. And over the last six years, we’ve used the dinner table and the principles of gratitude to spark relationships.

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In honor of Rome, we invented something we call the six pillars of gratitude. We use an acronym that we call GRAZIE, which means “thanks” in Italian. This acronym is a consolidation of our belief that not only has gratitude not been practiced enough, but it’s not been practiced in the right way.

G: Given Prosocially

For many years, positivity gurus have promoted the idea of the gratitude journal as the end-all-be-all solution for gratitude. You write in it twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, to give gratitude to positive things in your life. Now, what’s great about the gratitude journal is that it gives you an instantaneous momentary burst of happiness and thanks. But the problem is that just practicing gratitude on your own in a journal does not have the same benefits as practicing in a prosocial way. When you practice gratitude in a small group format, people get the benefits of giving gratitude, receiving gratitude and observing gratitude. In essence, it builds community.

R: Rooted in the Past, Granular and Specific

So many people will write in their gratitude journals that they’re thankful for the sun, grateful for their health, grateful for food, and so. The issue is, that’s not specific. Gratitude in the present is just mindfulness, rumination and momentary appreciation. Gratitude in the past is giving credit and thanks to something measurable that you can track the benefits of.

A: Authentic and Intrinsically Motivated

You can give gratitude in a very selfish way, meaning you give gratitude in a way that’s most convenient for you, the giver. We believe that in order for something to be authentic, you must be intrinsically motivated and go out of your way to show that credit and thanks when it is due.

Z: Zero Expectations of Reciprocity

Gratitude is not a response to feeling indebted. Gratitude is not a response for someone giving you something and you feeling like you have to give that back. When you want to give gratitude, do it in a giving way. Adam Grant wrote a book, Give and Take, on how the most successful people in the world are intrinsically motivated, altruistic givers. Gratitude is that thing. Gratitude isn’t writing down all the benefits you’ve received and making sure you pay them back. Gratitude isn’t writing down all the gratitude that you’ve given and making sure you get it back. In fact, when you give gratitude through a gift or a card, we almost want you to burn any trace of you giving that gratitude, so you don’t get in the habit of measuring whether you’ve received it back from that person or not.

I: Inquisitive Question-Asking

Sir Francis Bacon is often attributed to having said, “a good prudent question is one-half of wisdom.” We believe that a good prudent question is one-half of gratitude. All the work that we do revolves around a good prudent question or signature gratitude question: If you could give credit or thanks to one person in your life whom you don’t give enough credit or thanks to, who would that be? Who have you never thought to thank?

This question makes you sit and think about gratitude and identify measurable specific moments from your past that you’d like to give thanks to.

E: Egoless and Empathetic

Not all gratitude given is gratitude heard. Giving gratitude in a language that’s most convenient to you is ego — it’s lazy and selfish. But giving gratitude in the language of the recipient is empathetic. Gary Chapman wrote The Five Love Languages and in the book, he outlines that people like to receive love in one (or sometimes more) of five ways: receiving gifts, words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch or gifts. The language or way of giving that’s convenient to you might not be the same to the receiver.

Today is your call to action. Go out and observe the life around you. What benefits have you received from others that you’ve overlooked? Who do you need to thank?

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