Thank You: Two Powerful Words

Fronetics Strategic Advisors

Thank you: Two Powerful Words

I have two young children.  One of the values in which I am trying to instill is that of graciousness.  A couple weeks ago I sat down with my daughter so that we could write thank you notes for the gifts she received for her third birthday.  My five-year old sauntered by and made the comment that what we were doing was: “just plain silly because no one else ever writes thank you notes.” He got part of it right – very few people do write thank you notes.  What he didn’t get right is the silly part.  Taking the time to say thank you and show appreciation is not silly and is not passé.  Rather, taking the time to say thank you is critical not only to your success, but also to your well-being.  “Thank you;” two powerful words.

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that a mere “thank you” more than doubled the likelihood that those providing help would provide assistance again.  The research also found that a ‘thank you” yielded an increase of 50 percent in terms of productivity and an increase of 15 percent in the average amount of time a person spent providing assistance.  The researchers also noted a spill-over effect.  That is, gratitude begets gratitude.

Why is a simple “thank you” so powerful?  The researchers found that expressions of gratitude increased feelings of both self-efficacy and social worth.  They also found that it is the feeling of being socially valued more than the feeling of competence that encourages people to provide more help in the future.  In short, people like being acknowledged and valued for our efforts.

While there is rationality at play here, Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman Partners, Inc., believes   “[S]aying ‘thank you’ is mostly an emotional act.  It connects one person to another. Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t just acknowledge someone’s effort, thoughtfulness, intent, or action. It acknowledges the person himself.”  Why does this matter?  Because, Bregman continues:  “Acknowledging each other is our basic responsibility as human beings living in community with other human beings.”  Mary Kay Ash, cosmetics entrepreneur, puts it another way:  “There are two things people want more than sex and money: recognition and praise.”

Acknowledgement, recognition, praise, expressions of gratitude – what is incredible is that these don’t need to be achieved via an extravagant and expensive gift, rather they can be achieved, for free, with two words – “Thank you.”

In an article on the value of networking Kathryn Minshew, founder and CEO of The Muse and The Daily Muse, calls attention to the fact that people are more likely to give opportunities to those who are most in their recent memory.  Given this, she offers the following advice: “Be the person they saw yesterday as often as possible.”  What Minshew leaves out is that that last memory needs to be a positive one.  A simple and effective way to leave a positive memory – say, write, or type “thank you.”

Robert Eckert, former chairman and CEO of Mattel, offers the following tips on expressing thanks within the workplace:

  • Set aside time every week to acknowledge people’s good work.
  • Handwrite thank-you notes whenever you can. The personal touch matters in the digital age.
  • Punish in private; praise in public. Make the public praise timely and specific.
  • Remember to cc people’s supervisors. “Don’t tell me. Tell my boss.”
  • Foster a culture of gratitude. It’s a game changer for sustainably better performance
  • Acknowledgement, recognition, praise, a simple “thank you.”

I offer up a challenge to you.  Over the next week take the time to say thank you, to acknowledge others, to praise, and to show your appreciation.  My guess is that you will be both surprised and impressed by what and where two little words will get you – so much so that you’ll make thank you second nature.