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Thank You for Thanking Me

By Ed Maier, Former Andersen Partner

I had a recent experience with a service provider that I want to share with you. She helped me negotiate my way through a somewhat complicated service problem I had to deal with. When it was resolved, I simply thanked her for her help and service. She surprised me when she said: “You know Mr. Maier, I really appreciate your words of thanks. You have no idea how many people I deal with who seem to have forgotten those words as a part of our language.” Her comment gave me pause.

I had to stop and think. How many times in the past twenty-four hours did I have an interaction with another human being in which I could have said “Thank you” and didn’t. There were several. I also thought about some of the live television programs I watched that day and the newspaper and magazine articles I read. In many instances the reporter, speaker, commentator, or writer could have easily said “Thank you” to their listeners or readers. For some reason, they did not. Why is that I wondered? Well, I believe with all the vitriol being spewed across our airways, in print and in social media today, there is little room left for the simple courtesy of thanking another for their thoughts or assistance. After all, why should I thank someone for sharing their thoughts with me—whether I asked for them or not? Why should I bother thanking someone who offers a suggestion to help, especially if I don’t agree with the nature of the suggestion? Why should I thank someone for their good service if that is their job?

Each of us should make a more concerted effort to express thanks to others who help us in any way—even if we don’t like the nature of their suggestion or color of their stripes. If another offers us their thoughts or suggestions in a reasonable, open, and sincere manner, we should be thankful for the exchange. We should encourage others to provide us with their opinions and reactions to what we do and say, and we should thank them when they do. We should express gratitude whether or not we believe they have been helpful, or whether or not we agree with them. For example, wouldn’t it be nice to hear an exchange like the following? From Representative P. – “Thank you Senator C. for your ideas on this bill. I don’t completely agree with them but there are some points you make which bear further investigation. I will follow-up on them and get back to you.” And from Senator C.: “Thank you Representative P. I appreciate your willingness to take them under consideration and look forward to further dialogue with you on the subject.”

Here is a simple suggestion I have for you. The next time you interact with another person, find a way to thank them for that interaction. If it is the clerk in your local convenience store, greet them with a smile and thank them for helping you. If someone in your office has just made a mistake, remember that you have been in that position in the past. You appreciated it when a boss or a peer constructively criticized your work. So, thank them for their efforts and help them understand how to move forward in a positive way. If someone in your family has just done something that you think is “really stupid”, rein in your emotions, take a deep breath and explain your difference of opinion about their action in a rational, thoughtful manner. And thank them for being who they are and what they mean to you. At the end of your next Zoom call, take a moment to thank the presenter for organizing the call and putting together the material that was shared.

Try this as an easy way to help you implement this idea. Take a few minutes each morning or evening as you think about what you must do that day or the next. Make a list of five people you will interact with in that period of time. Think about how these people affect your life in a positive way. When you interact with them, no matter the outcome of the interaction, thank them for it.

I don’t believe that the world will adopt a generous dose of gratitude soon. I don’t expect my suggestion will heal the wounds of society. I do believe it will help you feel more positive about those around you. And I believe it will help them feel the same about you.

One of my favorite stories about thanking others is the Captain Charlie Plumb story. But it is rather lengthy, so I won’t repeat it here. I referenced it in Chapter 21 of my book (“Think Straight. Talk Straight”) which is still available on www.amazon.com.

Gratitude is a powerful force. Use it appropriately and feel its power. Thank those who pack your parachute.

And thank you for reading my thoughts.