Perhaps you’ve never given this idea a thought – and if you haven’t that’s okay –but there is a right and a wrong way to say “Thanks.” Given what we are celebrating right now, it only seems fitting to explore this idea.
If you’re skeptical, I understand. This is a distant cousin to the conversation around the right and wrong way to say, “I’m sorry.” You’ve heard people making comments like, “I’m sorry you mistook my comment as insulting,” as a genuine offer of contrition when it actually is a jab of a different kind. “I’m sorry” and “Thanks.” Simple words with big impact.
This focus on “thanks” has become a favorite topic of mine because we seem to be in the most divisive era I have witnessed in my time on the planet. That thought motivated me to focus on how small gestures can have a bigger impact. How can I get across a more caring message in a very short period of time? How can I subtlety bring a sense of appreciation and calm to a situation so the listener instantly knows I’m not here with an agenda?
Have you seen things jump right to conflict in the last year or two? My motivation came down to this: “How can I move in a healthier direction through simple gestures?” Efforts at diplomacy can go wildly wrong more easily than you might think, and so we look at the straightforward offer of thanks.
In many ways, it starts with your intention, right? Are you offering thanks to someone out of obligation? Is it a throwaway expression so you can move on? Often that message is communicated through both tone of voice and eye contact. If you’re already walking away when your thanks are being offered, few people will take it seriously. If you are saying thanks but your voice tone is saying, “To hell with you,” – the sarcastic “Thannnks” comes to mind – you will communicate something, but thankfulness will not be the message. If you are going to use the words, mean them and know the listener is always assessing your sincerity.
To me, the correct way to say “Thanks” combines great eye contact, sincere voice tone and, very often, a few extra words. If someone is doing a good job but has been getting perfunctory thanks from five people in a row, what if you take the time to look at them, pause, and then offer, “Hey, thanks. I really appreciate it.” It may not make their entire day, but those quick exchanges will seem more bearable because of your extra effort at kindness. In addition, remember we are often wearing masks in public, so our words are even more important when our smile is covered.
Finally, in this season and in our strange times, the message is most important for those who serve us. Ticket agents at the airport, wait staff at restaurants, cleaning crews in public spaces and support staff in hospitals deserve our thanks. The list is long and the recognition is appreciated so let’s redouble our efforts this Thanksgiving season to say “Thanks” and mean it.