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  • November 6, 2014


We’ve been on a big manners kick in my house lately. We’re talking about chewing with your mouth closed, not interrupting others when they are speaking, not hitting or pushing (duh?), and the importance of the age old “magic words.” Decorative Illustration

Thankfully, we’re good on the hitting and pushing. The “thank you” thing? Not so much. My young daughters have not completely grasped the fact that saying just a few words to an adult—or another kid—can sometimes make life so much easier. I am certainly no etiquette or communications expert, but I know the value I place on simple courtesy. What my daughters have not yet learned is that saying or not saying “thank you” can impact the way people view you—both in business and personal matters.

On teams and in our jobs, we’re constantly tasking people with things. As a project manager, I can’t even begin to count how many times I have had to ask someone to work quickly, later than expected, out of their comfort zone, and so on. It can get to a point where it’s almost as uncomfortable to say “thank you” as it is to just ask for something. No matter the circumstances, offering thanks—whether it’s for holding the door, a birthday gift, a glass of milk, or a job well done—is important.

Getting to Business

Saying “thank you” to team members—or clients—can have serious benefits. When you show that you care for and appreciate someone’s hard work and dedication, you build loyalty. At the same time, you can increase productivity, which leads to greater satisfaction for clients and internal teams. Above all, extending this simple, time-honored courtesy helps you stand out. And by not offering them you stand out even more—like a jerk. And no one wants to be a jerk.

3 Magic Rules for the Magic Words

Do you find yourself forgetting to thank people? You don’t have to own up to it publicly. But think about how you feel when you aren’t thanked. It comes down to the fact that we all take each other for granted, especially in our home-family and work-family settings. Sometimes it might feel odd to say “thank you” to someone for doing their job, but they appreciate it. Also think about how you feel when someone thanks you, even for something simple or mundane…or expected. It can be really gratifying if done well.

Still riding the “thank you” struggle bus? Here are three tips on using those two little words:

1. Timing counts

We all slip every once in a while. Whether you’re thanking someone for a favor they did, a lunch, or a document that they delivered, you should thank them immediately. If you feel the need to send an email, do it. Just don’t wait a week. And don’t feel like you have to write a book or overstate how thankful you were. Just getting it out there is what counts. At the same time, if you forgot to say thank you and realize it a week later, just suck up your pride and say it. This is definitely a “better late than never” type of thing.

2. Be Honest and Sincere

There’s nothing worse than an insincere “thank you.” Honesty is important no matter what you’re doing, of course. But if you’re struggling with what to say, just be honest about what you’re thankful for—no matter if it’s large or small. Gratitude fizzles if you don’t really feel it, because the recipient can feel it too. The person you are thanking should understand that you mean what you say 100% and that you aren’t just saying “thank you” out of obligation when you don’t really mean it. If you use a sincere tone of voice, it won’t feel like an afterthought or like someone else told you to do it (unless you’re one of my kids, then that is probably the case!). At the same time, it’s just as important to not go over the top with your gratitude. It’s uncomfortable when someone won’t just stop. A humble thank you is all that is necessary. I mean, you never want someone to feel like they have to send you a thank you for your thank you (META)!

3. Get it in writing

Nothing trumps an in-person conversation, but a follow-up in writing can send the right message and show just how thankful you are. I know, you’re likely 100% digital, but nothing shows gratitude more than a handwritten thank you note. The time it takes to write, address and mail a simple note is negligible, but it sure looks like a great effort. Maybe you want to get your thank you out quickly, so you opt for an email or a text. That’s fine—just think about the appropriateness of each medium. Maybe you just want to make someone smile. Follow in the steps of the gif masters that came before you-send silly images, e-cards, or songs to make someone feel your gratitude (and true personality).

The moral of the story: simple or complex, e-mailed or spoken, saying “thank you” always works. It makes others feel good about what they’ve done, and it makes you look good (whether you intended to or not). So go on and thank others for their generosity. Thank others for the things, both little and big. Mean it. Own it. And do it often. It’ll make you feel good to know that even a four-year-old can do it.

(Thank you for reading.)

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