We have all met people who no matter what you do will find fault, complain and generally be disgruntled. When you do something for them they somehow manage to leave you feeling guilty or even angry because what you did was not appreciated. Why are some people so demanding and dissatisfied all the time?
According to new research, narcissism (excessive interest in or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance) does not explain some people’s lack of gratitude.
Charlotte Witvliet and her colleagues at Michigan’s Hope College in a recent study concluded that some people just lack the quality of gratitude. They noted that as a trait, gratitude “is an experience of abundance, with awareness that one is the recipient of a good gift from a giver.” And, some people just don’t have it.
If gratitude is, as the authors claim, a personality trait, then it means that a person who is never satisfied is likely to remain an ingrate for their entire life. Also, besides being perpetually ungrateful they are likely to be chronically unhappy. As they are unable to experience an inner satisfaction that comes from having a sense of abundance, they can never be truly happy.
Previous research has shown that people who feel a lot of gratitude, when offended by others, regard the offense not as an insult, but instead as an opportunity for growth.
Cognitive appraisal is involved. A cognitive appraisal is an assessment of an emotional situation in which a person evaluates how the event will affect them, interprets the various aspects of the event, and arrives at a response based on that interpretation. So, when dealing with the ungrateful, any favors you do for them will probably go unappreciated because they are programmed to view favors as never being good enough.
A danger for the ingrate is that life becomes an endless self-fulfilling prophecy of other people’s failure to do right by them. Ingratitude becomes a part of their personality. What often happens is that people give up on trying to be nice to the ungrateful person and as a result the person’s ingratitude begets more ingratitude when they conclude that they will not receive any rewards for their own nice behavior.
For some reason, perhaps early in life, their hopes were squashed and they learned never to expect anything out of anybody. They don't see the good in what other people do for them and when they feel rebuffed, they react with anger and resentment. The result is that they often find themselves one of those type of people no one wants to help.
What the study did show was that gratitude is a quality that can be nurtured to some extent.
It should also be pointed out that there are medical reasons why some people are angry all the time. For example, a hyperactive thyroid which increases the metabolic rate, diabetes which affects blood sugar levels, cardiovascular disease and dementia.
Otherwise physically healthy people can also experience anger because they cannot deal with fear, disappointment, frustration or embarrassment. Then there are people who want to control everything and everybody, but cannot. And, some feel like they are a failure or worthless and blame others for everything that goes wrong.
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The Power of the Disgruntled Employee
Seven Habits of Chronically Unhappy People