It was a couple hours before dawn on a day in early January. I was standing outside a Best Western in Tallahassee, Florida – it was snowing, a sight I hadn’t seen in many years. The car was packed to the brim with belongings. Along for the ride were my fiancé (already sound asleep), a dog, two cats, and three kittens. The car had been officially dubbed Noah’s Ark.
I gently jostled my fiancé awake, it was time to check into our room, feed the pets, and get a few hours’ rest– we had been driving almost the whole night. When she awoke, still sleepy-eyed, she leaned over and whispered, “Thanks for coming with me”, it was genuine. I replied, “Thanks for having me”, it was genuine too. Tomorrow, or rather today, another 12 hours of driving lay before us – it seemed like such a ways, but those few words, spoken in the wee hours of the morning, added an undeniably comforting and irreplaceable element to a highly uncertain trip. Along a 1,400 mile journey it is those words that stood out to me.
You should know this
A genuine ‘thank you’ is so underrated. And there are a million articles and YouTube videos and books and professional speakers that will say the same. The idea, and its simplicity, seems played out when you go searching for it. The importance of a thank you note. Being mindful and appreciating the moment you’re in. Thanking God for our place in life. Thanking a colleague or coworker or client for the role they have played in a minor or major success. Thanking your waiter. Someone who complimented you. Thanking the guy that let you go in traffic. Thanking someone for an opportunity, even when that opportunity was given to someone else.
There are a million and one ways to say thank you and just as many reasons why you should. But why write about it, and even more so – why read about it? Shouldn’t we all know this by now?
Stop being so stubborn
Some of the most seemingly simple life lessons can be the hardest to accept. Many of us, myself included, are stubborn human beings, and too smart to be bombarded time and time again with the same clichés. Though, clichés have stood the test of time for a reason, they have been repeated and reiterated, questionably overused, because in many cases they deserved a continuous restatement – as a mantra for better people, to spur better ways of thinking and better life lessons, to create a more fulfilling existence.
Now the words thank you are by no means for every occasion, in some cases they give power to the wrong people and take power away from those who truly need more of it. For some, the words thank you come like the words ‘let’s get married’ or ‘I love you’– when you know you’ll know – others, we’re uncertain, cautious, and we may never know, and for those types, if you feel nervous about saying those words, odds are, it is the best time to say them.
Perhaps sorry isn’t the right word
If you are one that likes to carefully consider the dos and don’ts of a conversation, many sources say that replacing the word sorry with the words thank you, in certain instances, can not only be more positive but more appropriate as well.
Instead of ‘sorry I’m late’ – ‘thanks for waiting’ might be the better option and will be less likely to aggravate the people you have inconvenienced. Plus, for more self-preserving reasons, you aren’t outwardly admitting that you made a mistake.
We must also consider that in cases where people assist us with tasks, compliment us in some way, or do something else we perceive as overly kindhearted they are doing these things because they want to. An apologetic response to any of these gestures diminishes the reward for everyone. Simply say thank you and move on.
But it’s hard, for many of us the word ‘sorry’ is a nervous habit, a way to alleviate discomfort in a specific situation. Yet, if you’re the kind of person that drives yourself nuts over whether or not you said the wrong thing, think of a way to say thank you…it’s hard to regret a thank you.
Take the thank you challenge
Brian Doyle a young TEDx speaker spoke of a challenge that he created for himself in the vein of a simple thank you – just a grateful word or two to one new person each day for a year, and how it affected his life. If you find yourself feeling overrun by life’s negative chatter, you may want to try it out. This isn’t some grand ideal or corny self-help gimmick, it’s just saying thanks. Send someone a card, shoot them an email, or thank them in person. See the difference it makes. And if it doesn’t make a difference…what did you really lose?