The Power of Thank You
A few weeks back I came across the following quote that caused me to stop and reflect: “The habit of saying thank you is the mark of an educated man or woman.”
Saying thank you is something we are taught in our childhood. If we ever omitted that all important expression, I’m sure we can recall a time when a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle chastised us.
As we get older it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life’s daily demands. It begins as school work becomes more complex, and continues as we enter the workforce and build our careers. It is easy to take for granted the good things that others do. This happens in work and the home. How much happier we would be if we took a moment to thank those around us. Imagine the cohesiveness that saying thank you has…especially when done in moments where unexpected. It is easy to express gratitude when doing so is a social norm – such as when someone holds the door for you. Such habits are good, but there is something better that happens when these outward expressions of thankfulness are done in more meaningful ways.
Although this is something my parents taught me when I was young, it was something I was reminded of earlier this year. In April I was visiting our operations office in Chicago. In preparation for my trip I took the opportunity to write a very simple note expressing my appreciation for a colleague and the work she does in supporting our mutual clients. Fast forward 3 months later (in July) and I was visiting the office again. When I passed by her office to say hi, she wasn’t available. Something however, on her desk caught my eye. I noticed she had taken my note and placed it in a prominent part of her desk. I was both surprised and flattered by where my note was. It served as a reminder to how much each of us appreciates being appreciated. At the same time, it also made me reflect and wonder, if there are many of our colleagues that feel underappreciated.
My invitation to you is to proactively say thank you. There are so many people we can thank – a colleague, a supervisor, a client. There are few things more powerful in building culture, trust and motivation than sincere appreciation. Don’t stop there however. Express thanks to your family. Tell your spouse, children and/or parents that you appreciate what they do. By cultivating the attribute of gratitude in our character, you’ll see how much can change when you extend a sincere thank you, especially when done without guile and no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Regardless of whether or not you believe in God, you can also be thankful for the beautiful world we live in. Despite the chaos and evil that can at times make up most of the news, it truly is a blessing to be alive – especially in a time where technology can help us bridge gaps and communicate in ways we never could have in the past. Be thankful for the trials and afflictions that you’ve individually passed or are passing through. While they are difficult in the moment, the insight, wisdom and experience they can provide us with are of great worth.
Research shows that a grateful mind is extremely healthy. It is associated with happiness and improved health. It also provides us the ability to deal with challenges, build strong relationships and maintain positive emotions.
From a neuroscience perspective, gratitude is the cognitive association of positive emotions from our past. In order to manifest sincere gratitude, the neocortex and hippocampus have to project information they’ve stored to the limbic area of our brain that is related to cognizant thought. This allows the amygdala to turn off stress signals, allowing cortisol levels to normalize and providing the ability for our brain to release a healthy balance of neurotransmitters – giving us the “good feelings” when we are in a grateful state of mind.
Last but not least, make sure you appreciate yourself for the good that you do. There are so many ways we can influence those we come in contact with. Don’t ever doubt the good that you’re already doing and the potential you have to continue to be a light and positive influence in the world. You don’t need any official title or granted amount of power to do so. As I once heard, “many sincerely wish for more power to do good, but only a few individuals are good enough to be powerful.” Gratitude is the building block to building a character good enough to realize true change – in both ourselves and others.