You can’t fake gratitude. It will backfire unless you are an award-winning actor or expert con man.

Saying you are grateful for something you are NOT grateful for is a form of lying and seeds distrust. Most of the time, we can see through fake gratitude.

Gratitude is contagious. It’s like yawning. If one person yawns, the other does. If one person is grateful, the other will be. Gratitude takes on a life of its own and creates more gratitude. Gratitude is a multiplier.

Before science could prove it, Zig Ziglar said, “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude.”

At the foundation of this is science.   Mirror neurons are electrically and chemically excitable neurons that communicate through the air without you having to touch another person to pass on information physically.   It’s Bluetooth for people.   Fake gratitude is detected either consciously or by our human Bluetooth detector.   The impact of fake gratitude ranges from mild irritation to strong dislike and distrust.   The impact of faking depends on why the faker is faking and how we interpret it. Sometimes the faker is us.

The challenge is identifying fake gratitude. There are three types of faking:

  1. Forcing
  2. Coping
  3. Manipulating

Forcing Gratitude

Forcing gratitude can almost be forgiven for people in the service business who must follow a script and say they are grateful.    This is why a top tip for waiters and customer service reps is to learn how to evoke that feeling of appreciation for anything, even if it’s unrelated, before they say to a customer, “thank you for being a customer.”  Another tip, find genuine gratitude for something, even if it is unrelated to the service, and comment on that.

Forcing Gratitude Can Be A Habit

As a habit, it’s used to avoid handling problems or uncomfortable situations. Force gratitude is jumping to gratitude too fast and as a first response. What happens is that the real need or problem is lost, and resentment builds. Trust erodes.

An example is, “we are so grateful that our customer communicates with us; what’s next?” The content of customer communication is being avoided. This is done for various reasons, including not knowing what to do, not caring, impatience, or social pressure.

Using Gratitude To Cope

Using gratitude to cope is a personal defense mechanism to avoid handling difficulties. It’s a way of denying the truth about yourself or the situation.   When the truth is known, choosing and doing something different is possible.   The situation repeats itself, and the person gets stuck in the same pattern by jumping right to being grateful rather than accepting or solving a problem. It avoids digging deeper into messiness and self-awareness of what you feel and want most.   The impact is not getting what you want from yourself and those around you. It harms you and your relationships. It’s a form of emotional avoidance using gratitude to step over how we feel and what we want.

You should be grateful is a mantra taught to me as a child. You have food; children are starving worldwide; eat it all. Don’t complain, be grateful. I had to unlearn that mantra to discern what foods I liked and when it was appropriate to complain. I was in my thirties before I learned the fine art of complaining. I’m always on the lookout for when I am forcing gratitude and what it might be covering up. So staying grateful AND handling the difficulties overcomes the challenge of forcing gratitude.   

When someone else is forcing gratitude, you have a choice. What you do depends on the situation. You can respectfully call them on it or ignore it.

Manipulating With Gratitude

Manipulating gratitude is what has gotten used car salespeople their slimy reputation. Using gratitude to make someone feel good and get something for themselves is fake gratitude. It’s another person using gratitude to control the outcomes of a situation.

Allowing gratitude and difficulties to co-exist is the solution to the challenge of fake gratitude. Faking gratitude is done for many reasons, coping, forcing, or manipulating. Fake gratitude gets in the way of experiencing the benefits of gratitude. It’s one of the top gratitude challenges.


Where have you experienced fake gratitude?

Do you have any tips for handling fake gratitude?