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Communication

How to practice gratitude without saying one word

Over the past 2,00 years, the Nguni tribe have lived on the soil of Southern Africa. For the Nguni tribe, non-verbal communication is an integral part of their daily interactions and way of life.

For example, interacting with someone whilst keeping your hands in your pocket, is considered to be impolite. Conversely, presenting a gift to a host who has invited you to visit their home is a polite gesture. [1]

Within the context of practicing gratitude, we often emphasize the importance of words in expressing gratitude i.e saying thank you, stating what you are grateful for etc. However, non-verbal communication, gestures and actions, also play a crucial role in practicing and expressing gratitude. Here’s how.

Practicing gratitude as a habit

“Your actions speak so loud, that I can’t hear what you say” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the most important ways the Nguni people practice gratitude is through gestures. For example, when receiving a gift, both hands are held out in a cupped position.

According to communications professor at DePauw University, Melanie Finney, this gesture means that “the gift you give me means so much that I must hold it in two hands.” [1]

This powerful gesture is an example of practicing gratitude, highlighting that it’s not just what you say; it’s what you do that matters more.

Here are some ways this can be applied in everyday life:

  • As a Manager or Leader: It’s not just about telling your team how great a leader you are, it’s about showing them by listening to their needs and leading by example.
  • As an Entrepreneur: It’s not just about telling your customers how much you care about them, it’s about innovating new ideas to solve their pain points.
  • As a Friend: It’s not just about telling your friend that you value the friendship, it’s about consistently showing up to support your friend in times of need.
  • As a Partner: It’s not just about telling your partner that you love them, it’s about consistently expressing this love as a habit, regardless of whether you feel like it or not.
  • As a Fellow Human Being: It’s not just about expressing sympathy for the poor, needy and those in desperate need for help, it’s about investing time and money into improving the quality of the lives of impoverished people.

There are many more ways gratitude could be practiced in your life. The key lesson here from the Nguni people is that gratitude is a lifestyle of doing and giving not just talking and receiving.

In the words of Albert Einstein, “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.”

How are you going to practice your gratitude this week?

Mayo Oshin writes at MayoOshin.com, where he shares practical self-improvement ideas and proven science for better health, productivity and creativity. To get practical ideas on how to stop procrastinating and build healthy habits, you can join his free weekly newsletter here.

A version of this article originally appeared at mayooshin.com as “How How to Practice Gratitude Without Saying One Word”

Footnotes

  1. Melaine Finney’s Nonverbal Communication, South Africa
  2. Credit to Genesis International, Mckinney and James Clear for inspiring ideas in this article.

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