Let’s Stop Confusing Gratuity with Gratitude

Written by Joergen Aaboe

To be clear, this is not an article about whether or not we should keep tipping, although it’s interesting that restaurant mogul Danny Meyer is doing away with tips at his restaurants. But does gratuity come from gratitude? Or is gratuity more about courtesy?

Gratitude goes both ways — showing appreciation for kindness and returning it. And here’s what’s really important: At the center of gratitude is human connection. Without connection, appreciation tends to be emotionless, which moves us from gratitude to simply being courteous.

How connected do we really feel to the service people we engage with on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? We obviously meet them in person, but it doesn’t always feel like a true connection, does it?

Maybe it’s the sheer amount of service experiences that make us jaded, but it’s still crazy to me that service interactions — as human as they inherently are — can feel as transactional as they sometimes do. It appears we’re just not able to absorb the benefit of having another human being actually provide a service; it doesn’t always feel like it enhances the experience. I’d argue that’s because we don’t feel connected to the people providing the service and vice versa.

Here’s what’s interesting, with our increasing access to any piece of information and product imaginable, what we still really crave as humans is connection. It’s what drives us and enables meaningful activity in our saturated lives. So in a service setting, connection matters. Without it, gratitude does not get reflected in gratuity.

I’ve found that this translates well beyond our service experiences. It’s especially true in the workplace where we sometimes take “connection” for granted. We’re courteous to our coworkers, but what if gratitude became a more natural notion?

Seth Godin has been talking about the connection economy and its four pillars for a while:

  • Coordination — bringing people together to unlock value
  • Trust — understanding how to interact without knowing each other
  • Permission — the privilege of talking to people who will listen
  • Exchange of ideas — the fact that all of us are smarter than any one of us

What could possibly be a better environment for ongoing gratitude than one based on these four pillars? Let’s remember that they are as powerful offline as they are online.

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