Ah, Valentine’s Day. That romantic time of year when we strive to make our loved ones happy with gifts of chocolate, flowers, or fancy dinners. But did you know that trying to make someone else happy may have exactly the opposite effect on you? In a series of four experiments conducted at Harvard and Stanford, researchers asked study subjects to do two different things:
a.) make someone else happy
b.) make someone smile
Participants were also asked to determine which of the two efforts - shooting for happiness or just getting a grin - made them feel happier.
Though it may seem counterintuitive, respondents found it not only easier but also much more personally rewarding to simply get someone to smile than it was to figure out how to bestow happiness on another human being. Turns out that setting lofty and nebulous goals sends most of us into a tailspin. Lesson learned? That setting small, concrete objectives makes you feel good since you've given clear and attainable directives. And it makes others feel good since they exactly what you're expecting. Obviously, that's not just for matters of the heart - but also works in leadership and management situations.
So with Valentine’s Day looming, why not make a simple gesture that comes from the heart and results in a smile? You’ll both feel happier!