Getting to Gratitude
There’s a lot of talk these days about being grateful, giving thanks, and the importance of having an “attitude of gratitude.” The reality is most people already feel grateful. When surveyed, most rated their overall gratitude a six on a scale of seven, according to the Emmons Lab at University of California-Davis. The study showed gratitude pays off: Grateful folks reported higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, vitality, and optimism and lower levels of depression and stress.
Gratitude isn’t happiness on steroids, and it doesn’t arrive from a daily dose of positive affirmations. Instead, real gratitude is a state of being we usually grow into after we’ve done enough inner work and had enough experiences to understand the true miracle of our lives. What’s more, living in a state of gratitude actually changes us. People who identify themselves as grateful are more often empathic and able to see the perspective of others, a 2002 study by McCullough, Emmons, and Tsang notes. What’s more, grateful people are more likely to be seen as generous, more likely to have a spiritual perspective, and more likely to understand their interconnectedness with others and to all life.
This is lovely, of course, but for retailers facing the bottom line, gratitude isn’t just a feel-good concept. It’s also a practical, hands-on tool for prospering in business.
Of course, we’re all human—it’s not easy to remain in a state of gratitude all day long. You may wake up happy, but by afternoon you’ve accumulated stress from employees, customers, traffic, delayed deliveries, and more. We surf the waves of emotionality all day long, until one day we stop long enough to realize the emotional rollercoaster we’re riding is just one option. And, you don’t have to choose to ride.
Your retail business, with all its focus on financials and customers and stuff that must get done, is a challenge of the first order. But, when you take a deep breath, and then for good measure you take another, you realize that where you as store owner, manager, or key employee focus your personal intentions influences how everything else in your immediate field is going to flow.
The beautiful part is this: the higher you aim, the more conscious you are of your choices and the more you are in a state of gratitude, the more easily and effortlessly your store will move toward enjoyment, pleasure, and success—not just financially, but in all the ways you might measure a positive result, such as helping people, creating community, supporting change, and so forth.
Gratitude shifts reality
Becoming aware of gratitude helps us shift the vibration of our own personal universe and everyone and everything orbiting that universe—in this case, your store, employees, customers, vendors, even the products you sell. Everything shifts up toward your frequency of gratitude.
A few years back, economic fear took over for so many retailers and businesses worldwide. We learned a lot through those difficult years, and one thing became profoundly clear: the more attention we give to gratitude, bliss, appreciation, and awe, the more we open our reality to abiding peace and enjoyment.
The “customer whisperer”
Back in college, I had a job answering phones in a credit department. It was a difficult job: Most callers had been turned down for credit or were dealing with personal situations such as divorce. Customer encounters were usually very tricky, very emotional, and often unpleasant.
I was all of 20 at the time, and I learned one thing very quickly: I might not be able to help a customer get their credit approved, but I could certainly treat them as human beings.
This was decades before I knew about the power of gratitude, but even back then, I knew instinctively I must first deal with the customer’s emotional state before anything else would work. I did this by:
- Intentionally relaxing before I took each call
- Breathing deeply
- Slowing my voice
- Calming my tone
- Laughing (when appropriate)
- Feeling compassion for the person on the other side of the phone
- Recognizing I was no better or worse than the customer—just another soul, trying to help
- Deciding that even though the customer had a problem, it didn’t mean they had a problem with me
- Being aware this was a moment of my life with as much value as any other moment
With this approach, everything shifted. Nine times out of 10, the nastiest, most stressful situations, with the customer yelling and screaming, just ... shifted. In fact, I got so good at calming folks down, my colleagues started putting their problem customers on hold—and sending them over to me.
I don’t consider myself a “customer whisperer” by any stretch, but I do believe what often fixes everything is choosing to hold a high intention during every customer encounter and continually remembering we’re all just souls on the planet doing our human stuff.
Gratitude for “sticky” customers
Try using gratitude the next time you have a “sticky” customer. Take a deep breath and simply shift your awareness outside the problem you are dealing with. Seek a new perspective, a momentary distraction, for just a few seconds. This might include:
- Looking out the window
- Watching someone across the room
- Closing your eyes and listening to the sounds in the room
- Putting your hand on your chest and feeling your heartbeat
- Breathing deeply, in through the nose, out through the mouth, until you feel yourself relax
- Recognizing yourself as a universal being, a soul in a human body
- Recognizing your customer as the same
- Noticing you are alive, in this moment
- Feeling the “oh wow” moment of gratitude that arrives from this realization
Now that you’re fully grounded in gratitude, go further:
- Really, really connect as if this customer is your beloved child or loved one.
- See this person as a fully flawed human being—just as you are.
- As triggering, frustration, and other emotions happen, remember: It’s not personal.
- If the customer is reminding you of someone you know, remind yourself this customer is unique.
- Is the customer truly nasty? Do the best you can, then detach and let it go.
- Recognize the miracle in the moment, regardless of outcome.
Go with the gratitude flow
When we’re stressed, angry, or in fear, we shut down and cut off connection at all levels. But when we relax and are in the moment, when we look at our situation from the bigger picture of gratitude and flow, the whole universe opens up for us and for everyone around us.
Exist in gratitude to increase sales. Exist in gratitude to keep your customers happy. Exist in gratitude—the awareness of the miracle of now—and everything flows beautifully. Take a deep breath during the craziest, busiest, most stressful days and try it for yourself.
Putting on our Miracle Glasses: How gratitude changes our reality
In fourth grade, after six months of declining grades because I could no longer make out the increasingly vague chalk marks on the classroom blackboard, I got my first pair of glasses.
I was given what might possibly have been the ugliest specs available to a pre-teen girl in that era: chunky, black ovals that made me look like I was wearing a bug costume. I marched into my classroom to taunts of “four eyes” and “glasses face.” But, I didn’t care, because from the moment I donned those glasses—atrocious as they were—I could see. Suddenly, everything that had been dark and drab and fuzzy around the edges burst into clarity, light, and color.
With that gift of vision, everything changed: No more poor grades because I couldn’t see the blackboard. No more being pounded in sports because I couldn’t see the ball. In my young life, and perhaps in the trajectory of my entire life, those thick coke-bottle lenses were a miracle.
Learning to see with the lens of gratitude is sort of like putting on those glasses. One minute we’re flailing around in the dark, perceiving our life as sort of shadowy, chaotic confusion. The next minute, we’re blasted into a state of higher consciousness, and we can see—we understand, we perceive, we finally get—that our lives are so wonderful, so incredible, so big and huge and overwhelmingly awesome, that we almost can’t take it in.
Gratitude is the lens that shifts everything. It’s a waking up, of sorts, from a long, deep slumber. Often, gratitude arrives out of sudden, terrible experiences of illness, crisis, or devastating loss to crack open our hearts and bring the clarity of gratitude in. Or, gratitude may come to us more slowly, after decades of things not quite working out—poor relationships, boring jobs, difficult emotions—until one day we simply wake up to the fact that we don’t have to live this way. Regardless of how it happens for you, one thing is clear: the moment you wake up and discover yourself as a spiritual being in an earthly body, everything changes.
When we view life from the consciousness of gratitude, all our experiences—the good, the bad, the all of it—become beautifully clear.
Gratitude Check: Discerning what you’re really grateful for
It’s easy to say we’re grateful for everything good in our lives, but have you ever stopped to consider what you’re most thankful for? Understanding what is most important and meaningful to you can bring focus to your life in ways you may not have imagined.
Take 15 minutes now and write down 20 things you’re really grateful for. Don’t think too much about it, just do it—write down everything that pops into your head. Do you find yourself on a roll, and the gratitude just won’t stop coming? Keep going.
Now, sort your list. This can be a bit uncomfortable or even bring up resistance—how can we choose among good things? No one wants to be ungrateful! And yet, it’s exactly this discernment that is so important.
So, take a deep breath and whittle your list down to the top five things you are really grateful for. Here are some questions to help you sort:
- What could you least live without?
- What makes you happiest?
- What are you most satisfied with?
- What or who do you love?
- What brings you joy?
- What supports you the most?
- What is most authentically you?
- What always feels right?
- What interests you deeply?
- What feels fated or as if it’s your destiny?
Don’t worry if your answers aren’t what you think they “should” be or what you imagine “everyone” feels gratitude for. In my experience working with a variety of folks, I find we have very different priorities. Some of you may put family at the top of your list, others may choose vocation, others may choose health, still others spirituality. We are unique in what we appreciate most and find most meaningful.
Sit with this short list of five and allow yourself to understand how your behaviors, habits, or intentions may or may not support what you are most grateful for. To help you sort, ask yourself these questions of each of your gratitude priorities:
- Do I give this aspect enough time, attention, and intention?
- How present am I to this each day?
- In what way am I not present to this?
- How can I expand my experience of this?
- What needs to be released to make this possible?
- What else do I need to know?
Over the next few days, hold this list of five in your heart frequently and allow the Universe to bring you new understandings, even as you go about your regular day. You may be surprised by what you discover when you ask for more of what you really love.
First published in Vol. 27 No. 6 of Retailing Insight. © 2013 Continuity Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.