Grateful Attachment

Gratitude, like all feelings that matter, is hard to fake. One of the strongest proponents and most committed researchers of authentic feelings works with troubled couples and families throughout North America. Sue Johnson, author of Hold Me Tight and Love Sense is the developer of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, an interpersonal approach to emotions that transforms the lives of grateful clients while rescuing their relationships.

As a leader, you would be advised not to seek the intimacy levels with your staff or colleagues that Sue Johnson encourages in her client couples. However, there are clues linking grateful leadership to the roots Johnson taps. She traces her approach to the pioneering work of British psychiatrist John Bowlby. When he began his practice a few generations back, “helping” professionals advised parents to avoid “coddling” their children. But Bowlby and his colleagues saw something else going on, a disturbing denial. After all, where do first feelings of gratitude come from, if not from close dependable connection to whoever first held us tight and gave us the vital gift of acknowledgment?

Everyone recalls childhood rejections. Do such experiences make us reticent to take necessary risks later? That might depend on whether we were parented in a positively secure, an anxiously ambivalent or markedly avoidant way. Research distinguishing among earliest connection approaches is central to attachment theory. Are there parallels to differing management styles?

One way our own Judith Umlas (see Tagline below) helps us clarify the genuine gratitude experience is by distinguishing between thanks, which is often purely transactional and a more heartfelt recognition. What’s the gratitude connection? True acknowledgement retrieves those first feelings. Astoundingly, psychology once dismissed positive attachment and engagement as either inappropriately subjective or immature. Fortunately, now we know genuine recognition offers emotionally intelligent secure connection with measurable, tangible, “grown up” results.


What role does gratitude play in your life? Gratitude Connection weekly and International Institute of Learning Vice-President, Judith Umlas in her acclaimed books, Grateful Leadership, Using the Power of Acknowledgment to Engage All Your People and Achieve Superior Results and The Power of Acknowledgment will help you see the possibilities.