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November 2022 View PDF

Gratitude Builds Bridges

By Elizabeth Danziger


Gratitude builds bridges. People who feel appreciated are happier, more satisfied with their work, and more productive. Moreover, gratitude benefits the grateful person, too. Grateful people are measurably happier and healthier than ungrateful ones. It makes sense that the more opportunities we take to express gratitude and appreciation, the happier and more successful we all will be.

As a Toastmaster, you have many opportunities to acknowledge club members. When giving feedback about someone’s speech, share constructive advice and emphasize what the speaker did right. For example, after a member gives a speech that was clearly challenging for them, you can say, “Henry, I love the enthusiasm you brought to your subject. Your passion really came through.” Every speech has some good elements. Your job is to find the hidden gems and praise them.

When sharing news of a club achievement or the success of a volunteer project, be sure to call the achievers by name and tell the audience what those team members did. At the end of a successful social event, for example, ask for everyone’s attention and then briefly describe what each person contributed: “Shirley found us this great venue and Todd took care of the food and drink. Mary did all our marketing and look how many people are here! Thanks to everyone who participated in making this event so successful!” People tend to repeat the behaviors they are rewarded for, so be generous with your praise.

Whether in your business world or your social life, thanking people is one of the most valuable and impactful things you ever do. However, there is an art to acknowledgment.


What Elements Should All Thank-You’s Share?

Your thank-you must be authentic. Writing a perfunctory thanks will probably not register as genuine to your reader. Most people have finely tuned sensors for insincerity: If you plan to thank someone, be sure you feel appreciative. If you’re having a tough time drumming up enthusiasm for your thanks, stop and consider what went into the other person’s actions.

If a colleague has done a great report or presentation, don’t just say, Thanks! Great job! Demonstrate your awareness of the steps that went into the person’s work. Did they check the details carefully? Is the layout pleasing? Is the writing clear? If it’s a presentation, are the images strong? Every aspect of the other person’s work product took effort, and you can acknowledge that effort. Even if the results were less than stellar, you can always appreciate the effort that went into the task.

Additionally, be specific in your thanks. Use the person’s name. (Be sure to spell or pronounce it correctly!) Tell them precisely why you are grateful. For example, you could write or say, “Amelia, thanks for digging up those old files for the Jones project. You saved me a lot of time.”

Being specific shows that you’ve thought about the energy the other person put in and are not taking them for granted.


Gratitude That Stands Out

Any thank-you is better than none. But some expressions will do more to build a relationship than others. Consider these options the next time you want to show genuine gratitude:


 

A handwritten note.

Handwritten notes are the gold standard in written thank-you’s. Most people rarely receive a handwritten document, so the envelope elicits curiosity. The effect is powerful when the receiver sees that you have taken the time—and invested in a stamp—to tell them how much you appreciate them.

Seer Interactive, a digital marketing company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, keeps stacks of blank thank-you notes by the elevators. Team members may jot down an acknowledgment of a colleague while they get from the first floor to the fourth floor. Then they put those notes in the office mail to make another person’s day.


 

An email note.

Emailed expressions of thanks are also influential. In fact, emails that close with thanks are 36% more likely to trigger a response than those that don’t. As long as you are sincere and specific, what matters is that you show your respect for the person by putting your appreciation into words.

When you email a thanks, double-check the email address to ensure that your auto-correct function has not filled in the wrong name. You don’t want to send a thank-you to another person with the same initials!

Also, when emailing, consider copying the person’s manager or teammates. That way, everyone will know what a great job the person did.


 

A public shout-out.

Often, we feel that our private efforts are unknown or overlooked. A public shout-out of thanks—whether in a team meeting, on social media, or in a company-wide publication—gives recipients the satisfaction of having their work acknowledged. Toastmasters meetings provide a natural occasion for public praise. Don’t be shy about telling your club members about someone else’s success.


Avoid Advance Thank-You’s

Many people feel it is appropriate to write “thank you in advance” when asking for another person’s cooperation. They want to show that they appreciate what their reader is about to do.

However, at its root, this usage is presumptuous. It assumes that the other person will fulfill your request, thereby removing the person’s choice and the pleasure they might get from deciding to do as you asked. Moreover, it seems to say, “I’m so sure you’re going to do what I want you to do that I’ll thank you in advance—and then I won’t have to thank you afterward.”

Instead of “thank you in advance,” you could write:

  • Thank you for your assistance.
  • Thank you for considering this request.
  • Thank you for any assistance you can give in this matter.

And then, if the person fulfills your request, take a moment and thank them afterward, being sure to tell them how their assistance contributed to your life or your project.


Examples of Effective Thank-You Notes

Here are two sample thank-you notes. Notice how they use the person’s name and show an awareness of what went into the action being acknowledged. These notes convey sincerity, specificity, and simplicity.

 

Dear Janelle,

Thank you for agreeing to help the team when we were short-staffed last week. I know it meant rearranging your plans, and I appreciate your willingness to step up for the team.

 

Dear Andy,

You are wonderful! I thought I would never be able to solve my computer problem, and you fixed it in just a few minutes. Because of your help, I could meet the deadline on an important project for the executive team. Thank you so much for your support.

 


Just Do It!

Whether you choose monogrammed personal notepaper, an email, or public praise, the point is to step up and thank people when they have done you a service or if they are giving you their business.

They’ll feel a boost as long as your appreciation is sincere, specific, and authentic. And guess what? You’ll feel great, too.


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