Do you say ‘thank you’ enough? Why we all need to be more grateful

What would happen if we started saying ‘thank you’ more often? Find out why it’s easy to take people for granted, and what would happen if we expressed our appreciation more. 

From the moment our children start to talk, we encourage them to say ‘thank you’, and later as they master writing, we help them to write thank you cards and notes. Why? Because it’s a nice and polite thing to do, and is socially expected. 

But as we get older, we can sometimes forget to say thank you. As we expect more of others we don’t feel the need for, or have to time to, acknowledge our appreciation every time.

We’re busy, and we’re pretty confident that other people realise that we value what they’ve done. Besides, we do plenty for others too, and it all equals out in the end. So do we really need to actually say, text or email the words ‘thank you’?

Maybe not, but as we’ll explain taking the time to do so can change your relationships with almost everyone in your life for the better.

We take for granted those who mean most to us

Often, it’s the people we love most that we thank least. We may thank a shop assistant for processing our payment, or a waitress for serving our lunch, but we’ll watch our partner make dinner or bring us a cup of tea in bed in the morning with barely more than a grunt.

Or we’ll, at best, call a rushed ‘thanks!’ over our shoulder to our parents, sister or friend, as we hustle our children out of their front door after a helpful play date.

It seems that the more people mean to us, the more we consider their help and support a given. As the American writer Cynthia Ozick said, “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude”.

What would happen if we said ‘thank you’ more?

But what would happen if we changed this? If we made a point of noticing and appreciating even the smallest efforts people made on our behalf – whether it was expected or a thoughtful bonus?

You may be surprised at how much power a simple ‘thank you’ can have in transforming your relationships and getting the best out of everyone in your life.

Saying ‘thank you’ in business

One of my clients has a habit of always saying ‘thank you’ when I send over some completed work. Now, this said he is paying me for my time.

However he always makes a point at the end of the week of saying ‘Thank you for fitting this job in so soon’, ‘Thanks for meeting that deadline, I know I didn’t give you much notice’ or even ‘I know this job was mind-numbingly boring so thank you for your patience’.

This thoughtful acknowledgement always makes me feel appreciated (an emotion not many clients elicit). As a result, I always prioritise his work, and make a habit of doing things well, and quickly.

This is just one example of how making others feel valued in business works both ways. Because my client appreciates me, I appreciate him too – and demonstrate that in the service I give him.

So how can you use thank you in the workplace? Easy – just acknowledge that people may have made concessions to suit your needs, have put in a little extra effort, or worked a bit later than usual in order to help your business thrive.

Let people know that you notice what they do, even if it’s part of their job. Don’t take things for granted. If people feel appreciated and encouraged they’re likely to do more of the same.

If you have a business, let your customers know too how much you value them too. You could thank them with discounts, special offers or freebies – little touches that show you understand that ‘I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you’.

Saying ‘thank you’ in social media

Caring is sharing, so remember to thank your social media contacts when they share your blog posts or tweets.

This should be a regular habit and is fundamental for building likes, followers, new contacts, friendships and trust. Make sure people understand that you’ve noticed them, thanking them and in turn sharing some of their content if relevant.

(You can learn more about the power of being nice in social media in our short Twitter tips video here!)

Saying ‘thank you’ to your partner

A tiny thank you can have a massive impact on your personal relationships. Who knows, it could even save your relationship or marriage!

It’s easy to start taking your partner for granted – and equally to feel that you’re being taken for granted by them. How many times have you felt unappreciated for the everyday things that you do, that you feel go under the radar, unseen?

Little by little, we can become jaded and even bitter and twisted like Maleficent (that might be just me!). A simple, thoughtful thank you costs nothing, but can transform someone’s day, and even how they feel about you and your relationship.

If you could do barely more than half open an eye and grunt when it was brought to you, send a text to say ‘thank you for the cup of tea this morning’. Even if you may find it tough right now to think of too many things to thank your partner for, find something, and make a point of being grateful.

We all like to be recognised, praised and verbally rewarded, and you’ll probably find that the more you thank your partner for, the more they’ll do to be worthy of your praise! And the better you make them feel about themselves, the better they’ll feel about you, and the keener they’ll be to make you feel better too.

Saying ‘thank you’ to friends

Looking back on past friendships, I’ve realised what an unappreciative person I’ve been sometimes. I’m no saint but I’m trying my best! I want to say a big thank you to that busy friend who sat patiently with me ranting about my problems, when she had much better things to do.

That friend who realised that after having a baby (especially your first) everyone will be showering them with attention and the one who actually gets neglected is you. That friend who looked after your child so you could finish an urgent freelance job…

I’m sure like me you have plenty of lovely friends who deserve your thanks. So sit for a minute and think about something they’ve done to make your life happier or easier, and make a point of expressing gratitude to them.

They might never know how much impact their small gestures have on other people’s lives, and as the philosophical writer James Allen said, “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks”.

Teaching your children to say ‘thank you’

I recently started a new habit with my daughter every night before lights out. It’s called ‘three things we are thankful for today’. It might sound corny but it can be transformative. (It’s also harder than you think when you’ve had a stressful day!)

It could be the friend who gave them a hug when they fell over in the playground, or their teacher who helped them resolve a tricky problem. For me it may be a great conversation full of laughter with a friend or family member, or the neighbour who put my wheelie bin out when I forgot that morning.

It’s surprising how good it makes you feel to make yourself focus on the good and remember the positive things (and people) in your life. You also begin to realise just how much you have to be thankful for – even on an otherwise-horrible day.

Start saying ‘thank you’ more often

So if you aren’t in the habit of doing it, why not start saying ‘thank you’ more often? And not just to the strangers you encounter, but the people who do little things for you every day without thought.

Let your family, friends, children and colleagues know just how much you value them and their actions – and see how your appreciation changes they way they act and the things they do for the better.

It may feel stilted and strange in the beginning, but it will soon become a positive habit, and one we can all benefit from. As the well known saying goes: “It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”!