“Thank you”—like “please”—is as old as the hills. But like please, I’m afraid thank you has gone out of fashion. When we do say it, too often it’s in a perfunctory way.
A meaningful thank you can be especially valuable in our sideways and diagonal relationships. Too often, we get in the habit of feeling nothing but frustration with each other, usually because neither side understands the challenges the other faces. But just as complaining, blaming, and finger-pointing leave people with a bad feeling, thank you leaves people with a good feeling. Appreciation yields the inverse of the “disdain breeds disdain” rule. If you treat somebody with disdain, of course, you give that person a psychological incentive to diminish your opinion and to want you to be less powerful.
Inversely, if you demonstrate understanding and appreciation of someone’s contribution, you create a psychological incentive in the individual to give greater weight to your opinion. And that person will want to strengthen the weight of your opinion in the eyes of others. Appreciation and gratitude breed appreciation and gratitude.
As great as saying, “Thank you,” can be, however, whenever you can, go beyond that. Do more than simply saying, “Thank you.” One of the most thoughtful and appreciative individuals I’ve ever met prides himself on a simple but surprisingly powerful thank you technique. He calls it “my supersonic recognition thank you.” He says:
“I write a letter to that person, detailing exactly what they’ve done. It’s almost like an award citation, with bullet points spelling everything out. Then I send them the letter, but I also copy everyone I can possibly think of, including their boss, their boss’s boss, my boss, my boss’ boss. I copy it to the company newsletter and the person’s HR file. I share it with anyone I can. I send it by e-mail, but I also print it out for the person I’m thanking, with all the cc’s listed. So the individual can see I’m trying to shine a bright light of recognition on them. I’ve had quite a few people put those letters on their bulletin boards or even frame them.”