Showing Gratitude by Meggin McIntosh, PhD
No matter how many times you sincerely express gratitude, there’s always room for a few more. The good news is that you will never run out of ways to thank people – and they will never be tired of being appreciated. Here are ten tips for saying thank you. Choose the one(s) from the list that you haven’t been using lately and see if they will fit into your plan for staying productive.
- Be as prompt as possible when saying thank you. We know from the research that acknowledging something within a short time frame helps that behavior to happen again (be reinforced). So, whenever possible, express your thanks and gratitude as quickly as you reasonably can.
- Say thank you even if it has been a ridiculously long time in being said. It is easy to be so embarrassed that we haven’t sent a thank-you note to someone – that we delay even longer in sending one. Get past that! Acknowledge your tardiness in the note if you like, but send the card, letter, or whatever acknowledgement you choose. This is a case of “better late than never.”
- Send an email to say thanks. Sometimes an email is plenty if it’s timely, sincere, and your “thankee” is “cool” with email. Other times, email is a placeholder. You say thanks via email but then will send something more formal.
- Leave the person a voice mail. You might very specifically choose to call when you know s/he isn’t going to be by the phone because you WANT to leave a voice mail. Think through how you want to express your gratitude in words and leave that message on the recording. Not only can the person you’re thanking listen to it once, but if they are particularly auditory, they will save it and listen to it again. Think about your recipient and what might be just right for him/her.
- Write a thank-you note. This can be as informal as a post-it(R) note you write out and stick on the person’s desk or it could be more formal by being written on your special thank you cards that you keep handy. A handwritten note is appreciated.
- Keep a stash of cards (both the type created as thank-you cards as well as the semi-formal type you can purchase) available in your desk and maybe a couple in a purse or briefcase. The easier it is to grab a card and write, the more likely you will use this method.
- Send a present. It is not necessary to send gifts to accompany every thank you that you send, but sometimes, sending a present is appropriate. Keep a record of what you’ve sent, particularly if you are likely to send this person a present on another occasion. It is quite easy to forget to whom you’ve sent what.
- Write a thank you letter. This is generally more formal than a thank you note. It is often good to find out who the person would like to have cc’d on the letter since the letter could go into a personnel file or at least be included in an upcoming evaluation.
- Say thank you to all people who help you throughout the day. Since I was writing this article on a plane, I was noticing how many people actually acknowledged the flight attendant each time he brought something to us in first class. It was maybe 50%. Think about those who serve you at restaurants, in grocery stores, at the copy center, in the mail room…thank all of them for their kindness, attentiveness, and whatever else they are displaying.
- Tell your family thank you. You couldn’t do what you do if your family didn’t help you. Thank them. Often. [Thank you, Larry.]
You have students, colleagues, department chairs, deans, administrative assistants, secretaries, people you’ve met at conferences, and many more – all of who have helped you in some way and all of whom could use some acknowledgement and gratitude.
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