Why “thank you” isn’t enough

Thank you isn't enough“Thank you.”

It’s the nice thing to say.

It’s what our parents taught us.

Even when it’s no more than a polite reflex, it’s still a real expression of gratitude or appreciation.

And when you’re in a casual situation with someone you don’t know or with whom you don’t have an ongoing, meaningful relationship – such as the clerk at the grocery store, or the customer-care person on the phone – a quick “Thank you” is just fine.

But when you’re talking to your employees, your peers, your spouse or partner, your kids, or your colleagues, just saying “Thank you” isn’t enough to convey true appreciation.

Thank you for what? What did the person do, specifically, that caused you to feel good about them and their effort?

To your employee:  “Thank you for handling that customer. I appreciate how you were able to calm him down and help him be happy with his purchase so we didn’t have to give him a big refund.”

To your peer at work:  “Thank you for picking up my projects while I was out sick. I know it was a lot to take on right in the middle of your own work.”

To your spouse or partner:  “Thank you for taking out the garbage.” (Yes, even if it’s something they’re “supposed” to do, offering appreciation for doing any task is appropriate. Appreciative acknowledgement is a big part of keeping relationships, especially close relationships, running smoothly.)

To your kid:  “Thank you for taking out the garbage without needing to be reminded.”

To your colleague: “Thank you for the referral. That was a perfect fit for me – I so appreciate that you’ve taken the time to understand my work!”

The impact of appreciation

I seriously doubt I need to tell you how good it feels when someone appreciates you and what you’ve done.

And of course there are any number of studies showing this to be true on many levels.

Appreciation helps engage employees, creates better leaders, and can even save lives. One study showed a significant increase in coronary disease in those who felt un-appreciated in their work.

I’m obviously not suggesting that you offer unearned, phony appreciation.

But taking a moment or two to notice what someone has done well, and to be specific about what you noticed, makes you feel good as well as the other person.

Changing behavior

Have you ever had an employee who wasn’t performing up to your standard?

Have you ever wished your friend, spouse / partner, or child would do something differently (or do it at all!)?

Have you ever wanted to help someone change their behavior in any way?

Noticing and appreciating their efforts to do things better makes a big difference in their ability to initiate and maintain change.

Even if it’s your employee’s job to handle irate customers and even if it’s your partner’s or kid’s job to take out the garbage, those simple words expressing thanks specifically for what they did gives them so much more motivation to keep making that effort.

And maybe even to make additional efforts!