Giving and Receiving Thanks: A No-cost Way to Transform Lives

Why do so many people have trouble accepting "thank you" when it is directed at them? Instead of responding "You're welcome," which used to be the common response, today we are more likely to hear "No problem" or "Whatever."

What's wrong with this picture? When we respond to expressions of gratitude by saying "It's just my job" or "It doesn't take much time or effort," we essentially refuse to accept others' thanks. In so doing, we de-value and belittle our own contributions. Instead, we need to acknowledge that we provide value to others who are grateful to receive it.

The truth is, when we do not allow others to express their appreciation for something we have done, we trivialize their gratitude and effectively dismiss their feelings. In addition, we fail to honor their strong need to reciprocate. Unfortunately, after a while, people get used to having their feelings trivialized and dismissed, and their expectations are lowered.

We can help others recognize their value by pointing it out to them. Instead of accepting a reply of "It's just my job," take a minute to explain the impact their action had on you. Often you will help them see what they do in a whole different light. Think of how your actions may impact others - e.g., by making their lives just a bit (or a lot) easier or brighter.

It's so easy to make a positive difference in someone's life. Some time ago, a television commercial made this point very effectively by tracing the impact of one small good deed on dozens of people, as each recipient reciprocated by doing another good deed for someone else. It started with something as simple as one person's holding a door open and smiling at another. The trail of reciprocity grew longer and longer, as each person touched in some small way by a stranger passed along the kindness. Each person's day was made brighter as a result of that tiny interaction - not because of the deeds themselves, but because of the impact they had on their grateful recipients. By passing along the favor, and having others receive it, they were allowed to act out their thanks.

Imagine what our days would be like if they were filled with people who both gave and received thanks! This can be our reality, if we choose to make it so. We can begin by receiving others' thanks. Nothing more than that is needed to get started. Try it and see for yourself what a difference it makes to you as well as to others.

Pat Lynch, Ph.D., is President of Business Alignment Strategies, Inc., a consulting firm that helps clients optimize business results by aligning people, programs, and processes with organizational goals. You may contact Pat or call (562) 985-0333.


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