If I had just one piece of advice to give to colleagues, friends, and family, it would be pretty simple. Say “Thank you.” Say it early and often.
Two recent conversations raised this in my consciousness. First, a senior professional and former colleague was assisting an emerging professional with a networking and outreach discussion. They met, and because she was impressed, the former colleague offered up additional assistance. While a verbal thank you may have been given at the end of lunch, there was no follow-up communication after the initial meeting to acknowledge the gift of time and offer of additional assistance.
In a second instance, a friend mentioned that a member of her family found it difficult, if not impossible, to say thank you, even when she was the recipient of an extraordinary gift. These family members have had their differences through the years. But despite that, my friend expected an acknowledgement of minimal gratefulness. It never came.
Connecting to say thank you is, from my perspective, extraordinarily important. Saying thank you, as my Grandmother Brown was fond of noting, is just common courtesy.
But there is much more to gratefulness than meeting basic societal norms.
Saying thank you is a recognition that an interaction — from a minor courtesy to an extraordinary effort — has taken place and that you recognize and acknowledge the connection. The level of benefit you’ve received is immaterial in my book.*
People enjoy being thanked. They may shuffle, say “aw shucks,” and deflect the gratitude. But your effort to recognize someone else’s presence, their work, and the gift(s) they have given is (almost) always appreciated. Great leaders are very good at saying thank you. They do it early and often. In those few instances where people don’t appreciate being thanked, then recognize that saying thank you is good for you and your personal well-being.
Gratefulness is a recognition that we all count on the kindness of others: friends and strangers alike. No one got to where they are by themselves. Recognizing this basic fact of life is key to building circles of friends, networks of support, and real self-esteem. It is also key to a deeper understanding of grace.
A number of years ago I became intentional about saying “thank you” to someone every day. It is one of the smartest things I ever did.
Try it. You’ll (perhaps) thank me for it someday.
More to come…
*Oftentimes a thank you note or email does, however, acknowledge receipt of a gift. I don’t want to even think of the number of wedding and shower gifts we’ve sent over the years where we had to — after a long period of radio silence — reach out to the parents or even the recipients to ask if the gift was received. Don’t be that person.
Installment #22 of The Gap Year Chronicles