In recent years, researchers have been taking a good hard look at happiness and the science behind it. Along the way, they’ve developed research-backed ways to build better professional relationships and make your workplace happier, as Jeff Haden shared at

Here’s a few ways to get started:

  1. Offer “uncomfortable” praise.

Praise is great. No one gets enough recognition, but praise can sometimes be awkward for both parties. That said, studies show at that any self-consciousness the other person may feel is far outweighed by how good they feel about being noticed, recognized and valued.

  1. Express gratitude a lot more often.

The same “awkwardness” applies to expressing gratitude. Research published in Psychological Science shows that expressers systematically undervalue its positive impact on the recipients of that gratitude. Underestimating the value of prosocial actions, such as expressing gratitude, may keep people from engaging in behavior that would maximize their own – and others’ – well-being. Want to make people happier? Tell them you’re grateful for what they do.

  1. Reach out, for no reason at all.

According to a study published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers documented a “robust underestimation of how much other people appreciate being reached out to – and how much those doing the reaching out underestimate the impact.” While you might think people don’t care when you reach out – to say hi, or check in, or ask how things are going or offer a few words of encouragement – they do. Reach-outs help both maintain and build relationships.

  1. Provide a “partial favor.”

Say someone asks for a big favor. Too big. So you say no. What you should say is, “No, but …”

According to research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, people willing to offer less than what is requested significantly underestimate the value of what they are willing to provide the recipient. If someone asks you for too big a favor, don’t focus on what you can’t do. Think about what you can do. A brief stint on another department’s project team instead of a long-term assignment. An informal leadership role rather than a comprehensive development plan.

  1. Have serious conversations more often.

A series of studies published in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that participants said they felt less awkward, more connected and a lot happier after a deep, serious conversation than they expected to feel. (In fact, it was hard to get participants to stop talking.) In fact, the more “awkward and uncomfortable” a conversation sounded, the more participants actually enjoyed the conversation. The more they felt they bonded with the other person.