Episode 45: August 26, 2008
by Stever Robbins
Today's topic is deepening and building relationships. The quick and dirty tip is to say thank you.
Miriam from California writes:
My favorite Get-it-Done Guy podcast, "Filing," inspired me to rethink my filing. I've enclosed a photo. (Which you can find here, or linked in the resources at the bottom of the page.)
I am a 7th grade science teacher. . . . They say that a teacher rarely gets to reap the seeds sown so I wanted to make sure you knew someone out there is listening and benefiting from your podcast.
Wow! Miriam is so on to something. And not just recognizing my humble perfection—she's nailed the value of gratitude. Saying thank you is powerful. After Miriam's letter, I started paying close attention to thank-you's and gratitude.
Everywhere was full of opportunity! A checkout clerk said, while staring blankly ahead in a vague daze, "ThankYouForShoppingAtOurStoreIHopeYouFoundWhatYou'reLooking ForHaveANiceDay." It was amazing; it was all one word. I flicked dust into her eye, so she'd flinch and have to make direct eye contact. Once we had a connection, I filled myself with a profound sense of gratitude, looked deeply into her eyes, and said, "You're Welcome. Thank you for helping me out." She was so appreciative she even arranged for a police escort for me out of the building.
In American culture, at least, receiving a heartfelt “Thank-you” is rare. Yet, showing appreciation is a simple and powerful way to bond with people.
Appreciation bonds people
Why do you think fraternities paddle their members and make them say, “Thank you sir; may I have another?” The naive may think it’s the shared humiliation and comforting beer-and-dirty-socks smell of the frat house. Not at all! It’s the “Thank-you” that creates the bond, not the spanking, though I see how some people could enjoy that part.
In the episode “Building Your Network,” we said to start networking by calling people you already know. Nice in theory, but not always in practice. It gets awkward. After all, what do you talk about with an ex-boss? “So, long time no see. Did that little halitosis problem hurt your career the way you were afraid it would?"
Miriam has the answer. Kick off the conversation by thanking them. And no, I don’t mean “Thank you for buying Listerine, I was afraid I'd turn blue from trying to hold my breath while you were talking." Find something—no matter how small—that you sincerely appreciated. Be specific. Go for the thing you’re genuinely grateful for.
“You know, I was just thinking of you. You revolutionized my entire life by teaching me to do great project planning. It’s made an amazing difference. Thank you.
Gratitude is for your benefit
Sincerely thanking the people you take for granted is huge. Instead of complaining about the bellman who didn’t move fast enough, thank the bellman who carried your bags, remembered your name from last year, and greeted you with a smile. Next time you come in, you’ll be remembered again.
“But they’re just doing their job. Should I thank them for doing their job?” Yes. You’re not giving them a performance review: “You fulfilled job expectations.” You're feeling gratitude and sharing the good feeling with them. Feeling gratitude makes you happier (or so says research), so why make your gratitude depend on their performance?
I called my 10th grade math teacher and thanked her for being my best teacher ever. I got so choked up I could hardly talk for a minute—mainly because my brain couldn’t call her “Beth” and “Mrs. S” seemed silly when I’m older now than she was then. I finally croaked out my appreciation. We both felt grateful. She was hearing a former student thank her, and I can do trigonometry. Or could. Once. In tenth grade.
"Thank You" turns enemies into friends
You can also use Thank You to turn enemies into friends. Remember that bully, ironically named “Angel,” who used to hold your head under water after insulting your fabulously colorful almost-paisley bedsheets? Find something you genuinely appreciate about Angel. Call and say thank you. “Angel, I know we’ve had differences, and I admire and respect how you did such an amazing job helping the whole basketball team work together. I never told you at the time. Thank you.” You’ll be amazed how this can change your relationship. Today, your mortal nemesis. Tomorrow? Your bedsheet fashion consultant.
Other people you might want to thank: a parent, a sibling, your co-workers, the political candidate you voted for, the one you didn’t, your children’s teachers, the dry cleaner. The list goes on and on.
Now it’s your turn. Go out right now and thank three people. Do it for real. Don’t do it for them, do it for yourself, because gratitude feels good. You’ll find yourself deepening and strengthening friendships. You may even find a few friends you didn’t know were there in the first place. And if thanking people brings more intimacy to your life and you’re wondering whether to do it again, just remember these simple words: “Thank you sir, may I have another.”
E-mail questions about how to Work Less and Do More to email@example.com or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS.
For information about keynote speeches, workshops, or other appearances, visit SteverRobbins.com for details. Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!
- Pictures of Miriam, her files, Stever, and his sheets.
- Authentic Happiness, where you can learn about gratitude
- Get-it-Done Guy episode on filing
- Episode on building your network