The Art of Saying Thank You
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The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.—William James
Our family … pulled into a rest stop on the turnpike. In our typical fashion, my husband went in one direction with our two boys, and I took our two girls into the women’s restroom. …
As we walked in, I noticed that, despite how busy it was, the restroom was sparkling clean. I saw a woman hard at work, scrubbing the floors and sinks amidst others walking in and out. It struck me that, while most other women were home preparing [dinner] or traveling to visit family, she was doing a thankless job. The bathroom was remarkably tidy and, as any mom would be, I was grateful.
I should say something to her, I thought to myself. When I looked up from the sink, she had disappeared. For a minute, I felt a sense of relief that I could avoid a possibly awkward interaction. But while drying my hands, I felt a nudging within me to go find her and express my thanks. My girls and I walked around the corner to the other side of the restroom and found her reloading her supply cart in a closet. I slowly walked up to her and said, “I just wanted to thank you for doing such a great job cleaning this restroom. I really appreciate it.”
A warm and curious smile spread across her face as she looked at me. I wondered if anyone ever thanked her for her diligent work.
Why is it that we often think thankful thoughts, but don’t express them with words? Are we afraid of looking foolish or weak? Are we too preoccupied with our own agenda to take the time to offer a word of encouragement? Are we concerned that giving too much praise to someone might inflate their pride?
I remember one Sunday morning, early on in our ministry, when a woman came up to me to tell me how my husband’s sermon had impacted her. “But I didn’t want to tell him,” she confided. “I’m leery of comments like that going to a pastor’s head.” If only she knew how much more freely people seem to speak critical words. Encouraging, thankful words can bring life and refreshment to a weary soul. …
Likely we all could stand to grow in recognizing all the reasons we have to be thankful—they are all around us. But simply becoming more grateful in our hearts is just the beginning. If gratefulness rises up in our hearts, but never spills out of our mouths, we are only experiencing the beginnings of joy. Gratitude is only fully enjoyed when we share it with others.
As C. S. Lewis said, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
So, the next time you find your mind dwelling on a thankful thought … put those thoughts into words.—Stacy Reaoch1
According to the experts in the field of positive psychology, the mental state of being thankful benefits the giver of thanks as much as the receiver. Research shows that an attitude of gratitude bolsters your self-worth and self-esteem, combats negative emotions such as stress or anger, builds meaningful social bonds, and releases endorphins in the brain that produce a sense of well-being. One university study shows that gratitude and giving even increase physical health and longevity. As importantly, the receiver of your thanks benefits mightily by feeling valued and appreciated. Here are a few tips on expressing your appreciation to others.
Be sincere. Say it like you mean it—true gratitude flows from genuine feelings. Let’s say a co-worker has gone the extra mile to help you complete a big project on time. You could hurriedly say “Thanks” as you turn your back and walk out the door. Or, you could take one extra minute, sit down beside her, and looking her in the eyes say, “Jan, I really appreciate the extra time and effort you’ve invested to make this happen. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you so much.” The first approach seems like an afterthought and may make Jan feel undervalued. The second approach expresses sincere gratitude and is likely to make her day. When expressing heartfelt thanks to another, remember to use good eye contact, open body language, an expressive voice tone, and say the most important word—their name.
Choose the appropriate medium. When you consider the giver and what they’ve done for you, what would be most fitting: a face-to-face meeting, a hand-written note, a phone call, an email, posting a message via social media, sending flowers or a gift? Any expression of sincere thanks is better than nothing at all; however, ideally strive to match apples to apples. …
Be specific. Regardless of the medium—whether spoken or written—express the particular qualities or traits you value most about the person and communicate how their contribution has positively affected your life. For example, imagine a colleague has spent the last year planning and executing a stellar sales meeting that jump-starts your team on a great year. After the meeting, you could send an email that reads, “Thanks, Bob. Great job.” Or, you could send an appropriate gift with a hand-written note that reads, “Dear Bob, Thank you very much for hosting such a successful sales conference this week. You have an outstanding ability to organize details, provide quality educational content, and get everyone engaged in the process. We loved it! I’m confident my team and I will exceed quota and have a banner year because of your efforts. Thanks again!”
Commend or refer people to others. One of the best ways to show your appreciation for what someone has done for you is to sing their praises to others. When a colleague goes above and beyond, send a complimentary note to their boss. When you benefit from the outstanding service or product of a business partner, recommend them to others.
Look for opportunities to thank people. Every time someone does something for you, big or small, it’s an opportunity to express thanks. They’ve made your life a little better than before. Over time, this repeated practice develops a positive transforming approach to life—an attitude of gratitude. … Not only does thanking other people boost your own happiness, it meets a deep need within them to feel valued and appreciated.—Darlene Price2
Stop and recall the last time you said a loving word or expressed your thanks and appreciation to your spouse, children, or co-workers. Chances are it’s been too long. Maybe you feel that you show your thanks and appreciation through your actions, and that’s very valuable. But if you’re not also verbalizing your thanks and appreciation, then something is missing in your relationships.
Though actions speak louder than words, there is also a strong case to be made for using words in expressing your thanks and appreciation, and it takes so little effort that it’s a shame more people don’t do it. The only effort it takes is thinking about something specific to appreciate or commend the other person for, and then taking the time to express it. It may take a little courage, if you’re not used to saying thanks or expressing appreciation verbally, but it’s more than worth it.
I guarantee that sincere thanks and appreciation carry a special magic that inevitably lifts the spirit of the receiver and in return gives you joy because you’ve brightened someone’s day.—Jesus
Published on Anchor April 2023. Read by John Laurence. Music by John Listen.