20 Nov Giving Thanks. No, really – Give. Thanks
I have a pet peeve. Ok, truth be told, I have many pet peeves, but this one easily ranks at the top of the list. And, in fuller disclosure, I am aware it can be the case that what annoys us about others may be something we don’t like about ourselves. While I am far from perfect, I just don’t believe that is the case here. My pet peeve is the seeming indifference to the epidemic-level disappearance from our vocabulary of the words “thank you”.
This personal observation has been slowly burning for a number of years now, based on expansive, but purely, anecdotal evidence. It seems to exist regardless of place, person, or experience. Occasionally, when I am being what the Brits would call “cheeky”, I will offer a “you’re welcome” to fill the vacuum created by the lack of thanks; it has been met with sneers, blank stares, and shrugs.
Two decades after the fact, a brief conversation-with-a-stranger on this topic still sticks with me. Entering a building, the woman in front of me held the door open. When I thanked her, she stopped, turned around, and replied, “thank you for saying that.” Surprised, I didn’t say anything, so she continued, “You know, for quite a while now, I have been paying attention to this. White men never thank me for holding the door for them.” She was black.
What struck me was how willing she was to be that open with a total stranger. As another woman of color, I expect she felt I would “get it”.
I did, which is why the results of my unscientific though earnest research is all the more troubling. As convenient as it may be, I can’t tie the absence of thanks to any one ethnic/racial/gender/generational group or link it exclusively to a sense of entitlement or really bad manners. Is it laziness? I simply do not have the answer.
After “mama”, please and thank you are usually some of the first words we learn as humans. In my shopping experiences, I have found thanks for my purchase to be the exception rather than the norm. I buy a car only once every few years, but I buy a loaf of bread weekly. All good business owners know the importance of return customers. Giving thanks is not meant to be tied to a dollar amount.
So what? Is it really that big of deal that a harried clerk didn’t thank me for spending a few dollars?
I, like many professionals, am asked regularly to donate my time, sometimes for a short meeting, at times for much more entailed events. I am willing to do what I can, and likewise, I readily acknowledge how often I have been the beneficiary of others willing to give of themselves. However, I also make note if my time is recognized. This is not an ego issue, but if I have something that is limited in quantity, I want to be reassured that I am spending in a way where it is both desired and appreciated. I am guessing I am not alone in this sentiment.
Learning how to professionally thank someone is an important skill. It is the final, if overlooked step, of the human interaction process. It ends the exchange on a positive note, and begins the return cycle for continuing a dialogue or service.
Saying thank you is not just important for our careers. It is critical to our human development. More and more, researchers are releasing findings on the benefit of gratitude for our mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Just do a quick search for “gratitude journals”. You can spend lots of money buying a “pretty” one presumably to encourage you to use it. Whether or not you are thanked for your purchase is beyond my control.
While personal reflection of all you have to be thankful for is great, why not take it a step further? Why don’t you thank someone who helped make it possible for you to be grateful for all that you are enjoying? Others have told me they don’t know what to say, or fear their thanks is not enough. Let me reassure you, in almost all cases, something is better than nothing.
In my previous position where I worked with job seekers, a number of enlightening discussions, made me aware of the fact that many people simply had never learned how to write a thank-you note, so I created a training with old fashioned paper and pen and taught them. I give the individuals who participated a lot of credit for being willing to admit that this was something they didn’t know how to do it but wanted to learn.
This year, as we prepare for our annual celebration of thanks, hashtag thankful, hashtag blessed hashtag whatever, think about how and when you thank others. Then, take it one step further. Spend a few minutes writing a thank-you note. It doesn’t have to be long, detailed or accompanied by a gift. Often times, two words will suffice: thank you.
If you want some guidance on how to give thanks professionally, drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “Giving Thanks” in the subject line.
For the time you took to read this, I thank you.