Thank you for our connection!

Twenty five years ago, before social media, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. He theorized that humans can only maintain about 150 current stable relationships with other individuals. (Dunbar, 1992)

Today, in the age of social media, our close relationships are still limited, but most of us have what sociologist Mark Granovetter calls “weak ties” with  many, many more people. (Granovetter, 1973)

STRONG OR WEAK, OUR CONNECTIONS ARE IMPORTANT

Here’s the thing: The people with whom we have weak ties can be just as important to us as those with whom we have strong ties. 

Granovetter writes, “More novel information flows to individuals through weak than through strong ties. Because our close friends tend to move in the same circles that we do, the information they receive overlaps considerably with what we already know. Acquaintances, by contrast, know people that we do not and, thus, receive more novel information. Moving in different circles from ours, they connect us to a wider world. They may therefore be better sources when we need to go beyond what our own group knows, as in finding a new job or obtaining a scarce service.” (Granovetter, 2005)

So, whether you are a close friend or an acquaintance, I value our connection. Thank you for being connected with me.

THANKING PEOPLE IS RIGHT…AND POWERFUL

A sincere “thank you,” being grateful for the others in our life and what they mean to us, can go along way, both for the person we thank and for us.

Do you know that when people are thanked, they tend to take more actions to help others because they feel socially valued? (Grant & Gino, 2010)

Does it surprise you that people who are more grateful have access to a wider social network, more friends, and better relationships, on average? (Amin, 2014)

Research shows that whether being grateful is a trait or is triggered by another person’s kindness, gratitude is linked to increased “prosociality,” 
which is behavior intended to benefit others? (Ma, Tunney & Ferguson, 2017)

BEING GRATEFUL IS INFECTIOUS

Here’s good news: Your gratitude can infect the group. Gratitude can spread, through group emotional contagion, the transfer of moods among people in a group. In groups experiencing positive emotional contagion, members experience improved cooperation, decreased conflict and increased perceived task performance. (Barsade, 2002)

Cooperative behavior cascades in human social networks. Individuals are influenced by fellow group members’ contribution behavior in future interactions with other individuals who were not a party to the initial interaction. Further, this influence persists for multiple periods and spreads up to three degrees of separation – from person to person to person to person. And clusters of happiness can result from the spread of happiness in groups. (Fowler & Christakis, 2008)

The value of being connected grows when one’s connections spread across different groups. People who connect across groups have information, timing and arbitrage advantages that make them more likely to detect and develop rewarding opportunities. These “network brokers” tend to be better compensated, more positively evaluated, more likely candidates for senior positions, and more recognized as leaders in their organization and industry. On average, they are 50% more successful than those who do not engage in brokering but just interact with individuals like themselves. (Burt, 2004)

IMPORTANT FOR PLANNING AND IMPLEMENTATION

The research on the value of connections and impact of gratitude not only has personal and professional implications, it has organizational implications.

Think about it: When we bring loosely connected stakeholders and even outsiders into the planning process for voices and thoughts beyond our own, we are enabling the group to provide new information and access to their networks.

Likewise, making sure those involved in the planning know they have our sincere gratitude for their involvement and contributions seeds improved cooperation, decreased conflict and potent performance gains, that is, greater commitment to and involvement in implementing the plan.

I am grateful for our connection and your interest in strategic thinking and strategic action!


References

Amin, A. (2014).“The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn’t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life.” http://happierhuman.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

Barsade, S.G. (2002). “The Ripple Effect: Emotional Contagion and its Influence on Group Behavior.” http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.2307/3094912#

Burt, R.S. (2004). “Structural Holes and Good Ideas.” American Journal of Sociology. 110 (2): 349–399. ISSN 0002-9602. doi:10.1086/421787

Dunbar, R. I. M. (1992). “Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates.” Journal of Human Evolution. 22 (6): 469–493. doi:10.1016/0047-2484(92)90081-J.

Granovetter, M.S. (1973). “The Strength of Weak Ties” (PDF). Amer. J. of Sociology. 78 (6): 1360–80. JSTOR 2776392.

Granovetter, M.S. (2005). “The Impact of Social Structure on Economic Outcomes”. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 19 (1): 33–50. doi:10.1257/0895330053147958.

Grant A.M. & Gino F.  (2010). “A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior.” J Pers Soc Psychol. 2010 Jun;98(6):946-55. doi: 10.1037/a0017935.

Fowler, J.H. & Christakis, N.A. (2008). “Dynamic spread of happiness in a large social network: longitudinal analysis over 20 years in the Framingham Heart Study Research.”http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a2338.

Ma, L. K., Tunney, R. J., & Ferguson, E. (2017). “Does gratitude enhance prosociality?: A meta-analytic review.” Psychological Bulletin, 143(6), 601-635.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000103.