Two Powerful Words: ‘Thank You’


Saying ‘thank you’ is one of the simplest yet most important things we can do. It’s important when you actually speak the words and just generally feel grateful (or have a sense of appreciation for all that is good in your life). I argue that people who don’t say ‘thank you’ and who are generally ungrateful are less pleasant to be around. And if you’re less pleasant, you’re creating disadvantages for yourself, fewer people gravitate to you and you miss opportunities. Two simple words do, in fact, mean a LOT. This is one of the first blog entries because being grateful is one of the most important things we should think about. It’s something applicable every day of our lives in almost all circumstances.

Why care about this:

✔ People appreciate being acknowledged, in general

✔ Being ungrateful is downright rude and unattractive

✔ Saying ‘thank you’ is positive reinforcement for whatever nicety you just received (if you want something to happen again, be grateful for it)

✔ Saying ‘thank you’ is an extremely easy thing to do that pays disproportionately large dividends (relative to the effort it takes to say)

William Arthur Ward sums it up well when he said, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Have you ever met somebody who you thought said ‘thank you’ too much or was too grateful? Probably not. But, I’m sure you’ve all met people who rarely, if ever, say ‘thank you’ and seem unappreciative. Saying “Thank you” is so simple and so easy, yet so often forgotten. Why is that? Do people feel thankful and just not think that it’s worth expressing? Do people feel that it’s obvious that they’re grateful and appreciative even when they don’t say anything? Well, here’s the general rule: People cannot read your mind (if you feel ‘thankful’ or not) and will simply judge your behavior. So, you have to actually speak the words audibly! In fact, you cannot say Thank You too much. If you feel it, even slightly, say it! Say it often and say it consistently and use it in your written communication just as frequently (emails and even texts). People like feeling acknowledged and appreciated, for little and big things. Say it to people you know and people you don’t know. Spread the word, it’s contagious and it only takes a second to do.

The general idea is so simple and basic. It’s one of the first things that parents attempt to teach their kids and yet it’s something so often forgotten. I suggest that you think of gratitude in a more active format – something that literally ‘runs in the background’ regardless of what you’re doing and, accordingly, it will be ready to be expressed quickly, easily and frequently.

Here’s why ‘thank you’ is SOOOO important:

Think of a time when you walked into a restaurant to have dinner and, being the nice person that you are, you held the door for the people that were behind you. One of two scenarios then ensued:

  • The positive affect of Thank You: The beneficiaries of your door-holding gesture looked you in the eye, smiled and said, ‘thanks’ (which took a total of 2 seconds and almost no energy). The person was clearly appreciative of that fact that you didn’t let the door slam in his face and that you were aware enough to hold the door. You then smiled and said, ‘of course’ or ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘no problem’, which took you a total of 2 seconds and almost no energy on your part. You both then went on your merry way, both feeling positive and upbeat. You realize (consciously or unconsciously) that the person you held the door for is an ‘aware’ and appreciative person.   And, in general, you’re feeling positive as you carry on with your evening. There’s not an ounce of negativity or stress in either of your minds and you’re both ready to enjoy your evenings (and perhaps even hold the door for somebody else on the way out).
  • The negative affect because there was no Thank You: The recipients of your door-holding gesture walked through the door without acknowledging you at all. In your mind, that person could be treating you as the doorman, or otherwise insinuating that you’re there to serve him, or that he’s too important to bother with the simplest of gestures (saying ‘thank you’). Immediately when this happens, the energy changes and you become irritated that you wasted your time holding the door. You start making assumptions about that person (i.e. he’s a spoiled, unconscious brat who thinks he’s a VIP, etc.). These assumptions may or may not be true, but regardless, you’re irritated because you went out of your way to do something nice (as minor as it was) and somebody was ungrateful.   And your energy goes from neutral or positive, to a bit irritated.   When you see that person in the restaurant, you have negative feelings and association and you’re not likely excited about holding the door for anybody on the way out of the restaurant that evening. This same situation applies in dozens of other daily scenarios (when you expect a simple ‘thank you’), including allowing somebody to cut into traffic in front of you, letting a person in huge rush go ahead of you the grocery store… (the list goes on).

I realize this example seems trite, but it’s important to consider how something so small (related to gratitude) can have such a disproportionately large impact one way or the other.   Think of how many times these small situations arise from day to day and how, in aggregate, the impact has a cascade of feelings / energy that can be significant and can permeate. That’s why gratitude is so important. Ten situations where you or somebody around you does something nice and somebody has been appreciative has a nice positive affect – in aggregate. And it encourages more of that behavior for all parties involved. The opposite is not good… it engenders more unconscious behavior and negative feelings.

And well beyond saying the words (‘thank you’), it’s even more important that you feel it. Feeling grateful and appreciative is positive and attracts that energy in your life. Be grateful for everything… little and big things. Even when you’re having a bad day, be grateful you’re experiencing the day. There’s always something to be grateful for, even in the most trying times.   While we are all different with unique strengths and weaknesses, we all have things for which we are grateful. Think of those things regularly… be aware of them and remind yourself of them, even in the most frustrating circumstances. At least once daily, take a moment to reflect on and remind yourself of the things in your life that you appreciate.

And, please know that reciprocation helps encourage gratitude. If you are the recipient of something nice, obviously say, ‘thank you’. But also, think about returning the favor.   Returning a favor, especially when it’s not expected, creates valuable momentum for more of the same behavior. One nice / generous act begets the next and the next and so on. The more nice gestures being exchanged, the more we smile. There’s a definite correlation.  So, from the bottom of my heart, “Thank you for reading my blog!” J

Be grateful to people in your life. Express your appreciation to friends and family who you enjoy having in your life. Saying that you appreciate a friend, significant other, parent… is REALLY NICE. And they’ll appreciate it. Oh, and don’t forget to say thank you every time that you are served food or drink – waiters appreciate that and will give you better service!

OK… repeat after me: “THANK YOU”

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