To Thank or Not To Thank

Recently, I gave a presentation on resilience at Defy Ventures, an innovative organization that recognizes the entrepreneurial skills of formerly incarcerated gang members and drug dealers and provides them with formal training in business building. As part of the program, I’ve volunteered to mentor one of the entrepreneurs-in-training, someone whose comments during my presentation reflected the wisdom and philosophical depth he’s developed over the course of 18 years (!) in prison.

Earlier this week, I received from him a handwritten letter of appreciation: “Thank you for considering mentoring me and affecting the course in which my life will go. I meant it when I said you were the best mentor for me due to the school of thought we share.”

He’s already thanked me verbally and we’ll be meeting every week so it really wasn’t necessary to send a note. But you can imagine how warm and fuzzy I felt when I received it.

Too often, I think, we feel that flash of gratitude for what someone’s done or said and – maybe because we’re busy or get distracted — we let it pass without acknowledgement. Other times, we pooh-pooh the idea of appreciation because, well, we don’t want them to develop a sense of entitlement or, why should I thank someone when they’re just doing what they’re supposed to do?

But guess who misses out when we pass up opportunities to appreciate? We do. I’m talking about the numerous research studies, pioneered by Robert Emmons, showing how gratitude benefits not only our psyche and makes us happier but helps us sleep better, strengthens our immune system and prevents heart attacks. Yeah, that’s all.

Knowing that, why not take advantage of every opportunity to show appreciation — even those that are counter-intuitive or less obvious. For example:

  • When you’re feeling nervous about something important: “Thank you for the opportunity to present this proposal/interview for the position.”
  • When you want to give positive reinforcement (so they know to repeat the behavior): “Thank you for being on time/showing such enthusiasm/having my back in the meeting.”
  • When someone gives you criticism that stings but you know they mean well: “Thank you for pointing that out.”
  • When you want to disarm your “opponent” and let them save face (as my client did in negotiating a severance package with his boss): “Thank you for giving me a few days to process your decision.”
  • When you want to gently remind someone of what they said they’d do: “Thank you for picking up the kids/dropping off the dry-cleaning/writing up the meeting notes.”

Keep it heartfelt and genuine, and you can’t go wrong saying “thank you.”

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