Our Voice: Just for today – replace insults with compliments

November 28, 2013 

We put out an invitation for people to tell us what they were thankful for to be included in today’s special Forum section.

Many people responded.

We’re grateful for that ... but not surprised.

Three years ago we started an experiment we called Thankful Thursday. As an industry, newspapers typically don’t publish letters expressing gratitude for other people. Before November 2010, the Tri-City Herald was one of those papers.

Our then-experiment-now-tradition was to set aside one day a week and run only letters expressing gratitude. And it has been wildly successful.

Robert Emmons — author, professor of psychology at University of California Davis and recognized authority on gratitude — explains why Thankful Thursdays are successful.

It’s because the act of expressing gratitude makes people feel happier.

He has several suggestions for cultivating gratitude. One is a keeping a gratitude journal.

Thinking of what you’re grateful for works, but writing it down works better.

One-sentence quips help. Writing the details about one specific event helps even more.

Be specific. Be genuine.

One teenage girl did an experiment of sending all of her Facebook friends a message detailing what she liked about them and expressing her gratitude.

She wrote to five people at a time. For many FB users, that would be a huge task.

She was overwhelmed by the effect it had on the people she messaged and their responses.

It would be a fun experiment to try. Perhaps the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas — or in those long, dark months after the beginning of the year — we could all take a look through our friends list (flesh-and-bone friends or those we associate with on social media) and send a note to people telling them why we are grateful to have them in our lives.

We have seen huge success from our Thankful Thursday experiment. We suspect individual efforts would have an even greater impact on the recipients.

Which leads us to another thought. Here is an official invitation to our regular commentors who electronically joust and jab at one another at tricityherald.com: Consider using the online commenting section for this article and write something positive about the people you deeply and passionately disagree with on letters to the editor and other forums.

We know there are strong and differing opinions. And it’s extremely frustrating to deal with wrong-thinking people, which from some vantage point includes all of us.

But — just for today — can you say something nice to each other? If you’re not an online commentor, try it in person.

As an experiment.

In the name of science.

And goodwill.

Happy Thanksgiving. We have much to be grateful for.

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