Roots of Positivity

Can the feelings of elevation, gratitude, and admiration help you have better relationships at work?

How many positive emotions can you name? One? Five? Ten? When we think of positive emotions, we often think of happiness, joy, satisfaction, contentment, and the like. However, these emotions are largely the result of some internal evaluation of our own current condition. When naming, did you include gratitude, elevation, or admiration in your list? These less commonly discussed positive emotions are unique in that they result from witnessing the exemplary actions of others, and can help us improve our relationships at work.

These positive emotions result from others’ meritorious actions in a few ways. For example, elevation is experienced as a result of viewing another person performing a morally exceptional act. Gratitude is a sense of having benefitted from another’s actions, and admiration is the response to witnessing a high level of ability or achievement in another person. Algoe and Haidt (2009) found that these “other-praising” emotions are associated with the motivation to be more social and to strengthen our relationships. This suggests that by looking for and appreciating the generosity and positive qualities of others, you can actually strengthen your work relationships.  

One way to cultivate these positive emotions in your daily life is to use savoring techniques. Savoring is the process of appreciating and attending to a positive experience with the intention of enhancing it (Bryant & Veroff, 2007). When you observe exceptional qualities in your coworkers, try taking a moment to notice how you feel as a result. Pay attention to your bodily sensations and the subsequent actions that you may be inspired to take. If you are moved to do so, you may want to share your observations with the individual who triggered the emotion by recognizing their exceptional act or ability. They’ll likely feel more positive emotions as well!

Using this technique can help build positive rapport with your coworkers, strengthening your connections. Sometimes when we think about emotions, we are limited to thinking of happiness or sadness. Now, see if you can recognize feelings of elevation, gratitude, and admiration in your life. Use savoring strategies to increase your emotional repertoire and improve your workplace relationships. After all, emotions are contagious (Johnson, 2008) – so you may just end up being patient zero for an epidemic of positivity.


 Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: the “other-praising” emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(January 2015), 105–127. doi:10.1080/17439760802650519

Bryant, F. B., & Veroff, J. (2007). Concepts of savoring: An introduction. In Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience (pp. 1–24).

Johnson, S. K. (2008). I second that emotion: Effects of emotional contagion and affect at work on leader and follower outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 19(1), 1–19. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.12.001