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How to Increase Your Social Capital, According to New Research

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Showing appreciation and giving thanks to others isn’t just a moral imperative. It is also a key predictor of success for entrepreneurs.

According to research, there’s a scientific reason why gratitude is vital for relationship building and why it is a business imperative. As renowned Scottish economist, Adam Smith, once remarked, “The sentiment which most immediately and directly prompts us to reward, is gratitude.”

Gratitude increases social capital.

Research has revealed that practicing gratitude is associated with greater social capital—the interpersonal relationships and connections that can be used to gain an advantage.

One landmark study found that those who were 10% more grateful than average boasted 17.5% more social capital. We’re more liked and respected when we practice gratitude. We’re also more likely to forge higher levels of trust with others. This pro-social behavior ultimately results in increased social capital.

Social capital is the intangible factor that is responsible for some of the most significant economic transactions. From venture capitalists sourcing deal flow to entrepreneurs closing their first deal, social capital can represent the difference between success and failure.

Gratitude is contagious.

Research has shown that gratitude is a gift that keeps on giving. Groundbreaking research spearheaded by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino sheds a lot of light on why gratitude motivates pro-social behavior. The researchers conducted a series of studies that revealed that when an individual is thanked by someone of authority, he/she was more likely to volunteer to complete extra work. More specifically, when people are thanked, they, in turn, feel more socially valued and have greater levels of self-efficacy (an individual’s innate belief that he/she is able to be successful). 

Watch Adam Grant talk about social capital in his interview with McKinsey on keys to professional success. 


This phenomenon is powerful, especially when you’re trying to sell a product or service, or build a compelling business argument. When employees, customers, and potential business partners feel more valued and exhibit higher levels of self-efficacy, they are more likely to be motivated to submit to your requests. By leveraging Affinity to get a strong pulse on your network and relationship strength you can more effectively determine where you should focus your gratitude efforts in order to realize the biggest gains and trigger a domino effect.

Gratitude lowers stress levels

Another powerful result of gratitude is the fact that it is strongly associated with decreased stress levels. Research has found that gratitude is related to 23 percent lower levels of stress hormones.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading expert on gratitude explains, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness…It’s impossible to feel envious and grateful at the same time.” The benefits can be transformative. Lower levels of stress can give rise to more enjoyable customer experiences and more positive perceptions of others.

In today’s competitive business environment, the importance of gratitude cannot be overstated. Gratitude is not a “nice to have”. It is a “need to have”. Practicing gratitude requires a concerted effort. It requires a significant investment of time and effort.

Interested in learning how Affinity can help your team? Sign up here get a demo and free trial.

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