When someone helps you, you must express gratitude; it is the kind of glue that binds you and your benefactor together and without some sort of acknowledgement, people very quickly stop wanting to help you. Recent studies show that when someone wasn’t thanked for their help, their future rates of helping people were immediately cut in half.

However, most people actually get gratitude utterly wrong. This is because  we have a tendency to talk about ourselves even when we should be thinking and talking about others. This means that when we get high-quality help and support, we want to talk how it made us feel because we assume that’s what the helper wants to hear — they were helping to make us happy, so they must want to hear about how happy we are.

But this assumption is often wrong. Sure, your helper wants you to be happy, but the motivation to be helpful often is tied directly to our own sense of self-worth. So we often help because we want to be good people, to live up to our goals and values – and yes, to be admired.

So next time you want to express gratitude, don’t focus on how you felt  (“it let me relax” or “it makes me happy”) but instead focus on the the actions of the giver (“it shows how responsible you are” or “You go out of your way”)

Remember this the next time you receive support from a colleague or friend. Helpers want to see themselves positively and to feel understood and cared for — which is difficult for them to do when you won’t stop talking about yourself.

We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: www.bcw-sport.com