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  • Writer's pictureJo Small

The power of a proper thank you

International Day of Happiness has got me thinking about thank yous.

In this world of increased workloads, greater accessibility of our colleagues through online tools, and blurring time, it can be easy to feel permanently in a rush. Most people I talk to are worried about the loss of connectedness with friends, family and work colleagues. At work many of the informal opportunities to chat and connect have been lost. There’s not enough time to pause let along consider how we are thanking people.

Sometimes we don't take the time to say a proper thank you. Sometimes we don't think carefully enough about the potential impact of our thank you. When’s the last time you gave a proper thank you? When’s the last time you received a proper thank you? How did it make you feel?

I received a proper thank you yesterday. I did, what I considered to be, a tiny favour for a friend. I offered. It took 20 minutes of my time. She thanked me afterwards and I was happy to have helped her. Yesterday I was working and a What’sApp message appeared on my phone – “Little thank you for now on your doorstep! X”. I opened the door and there, on the doorstep was a little pot of Muscari with a lovely thank you message written on the wrapping paper. That happened at around 10am yesterday. It’s 10am the following day as I write this blog and I’m still glowing from the thank you. I hadn’t fully appreciated how much my time had meant my friend. Her thanks made me feel valued. It gave me a boost of happiness. It made me feel connected.

So let’s talk thank yous.

The Throwaway Thank You.

The Throwaway Thank You is the extra in our conversation. We send an email to someone and add a quick thank you at the end - "By the way .. .thank for ....." Or, we have a conversation with someone and add a thank you into the dialogue. We’ve thanked the person but has our thanks been lost in the threads of our conversation? Has it had the impact that we desire? Do they fully see how much we value them? Has the other person truly heard our thanks or, because they are as busy as we are, has it bounced off them and just become part of our conversation?

The Throwaway Thank You is an important part of our conversations, whether verbally or by email, but it’s important to reflect on whether they have become our primary form of thanks. If you’re a manager physically disconnected from your team, how are you thanking your team? How are you encouraging them to thank each other? Are your thank yous landing?

Compare the Throwaway Thank You with the Proper Thank You. The Proper Thank You is an email where the sole purpose is to thank the other person. It only needs to be a few lines. It only needs to take a few minutes. The impact of this is huge – the other person may feel surprised, pleased, and immediately recognise that you have taken time to craft a message of thanks. The thank you lands and becomes a moment for them to savour. It gives a glow that nourishes them for a small part of their day.

The Proper Thank You is the What’s App message you send ……. not just with a smiley gif of some happy faces … but a smiley face gif plus a message that demonstrates your appreciation for the other person.

The Proper Thank You is the phone call you make with sole purpose of saying thank you. The last time I did this the other person was so taken aback that they asked me if I didn’t want to talk about anything else while I was on the phone. I said “No …. I’ve just phoned to say thank you.”

Time taken to craft a thank you message is enough but gifts are also nice! One of the things I have noticed during the Pandemic is a resurgence in sending gifts. Sending gifts used to be more focused around special days – birthdays, Mother’s Day etc. – but there seems to be more sending of little gifts to let people know that they are in our thoughts. We can’t connect in person but we can connect through gifts. These gifts don’t have to be elaborate chocolates or huge bouquets. The best gifts are the personal ones.

Thank you gifts are the same – they don’t need to be huge to make an impact. The lovely Tim (alias Charity Ninja) sent me some teabags, chocolates and a written note of thanks early this year – it was totally unexpected but gave me an immense feeling of connection. We haven’t seen in each other in ages but the thank you ensures that we’re now in each other’s thoughts.

Two golden rules of the Proper Thank You:

  1. Take some time to be clear about what you're thanking the person for

  2. Ensure that your message (email, card, phone call) focuses solely on the thank you

Whose support have you valued recently?

How can you spread a little happiness today by giving someone a proper thank you?

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