Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Thank You: Why Is It So Powerful

Not remembering to thank people who have helped us is a bad mistake. Not just because your mother always taught you manners and she would be horribly ashamed. We hate when we get bad service, we dislike when people do not act on requests we make for change; we are frustrated when our hopes for a better sympathetic ear are dashed. Yet how often do we really appreciate those gifts after our goal has been accomplished? Do we go back and thank the person who has helped us? Do we write the letter to the supervisor, the person in question, or do anything to recognize that burden that was lifted from us, the joy that was given to us, all by the gesture of another person?

There have been numerous articles and even books written on the art of complaining and being assertive to get what you want. In fairness there are even books on etiquette that explain the appropriate method to write thank you notes, the occasions they should be written for, and how long one has to write them. However, rarely does one understand the importance of saying thank you, whether it is by note, by phone, or just by finding the time to express appreciation for another’s actions that made your life easier or when someone finally listened and changed something that bothered you.

Last night, I listened to a City Council meeting and was surprised to hear a Councilor actually speak with respect towards his constituents. I will need to find a means to express how impressed I was that he stood up in a hostile environment and spoke for the rights of the taxpayers. I have often been publically critical of this Councilor for his negative comments about taxpayers, so if I want this behavior to continue, it is my job to reinforce this behavior. Selfish, perhaps, but if we like the behavior we see, encouraging the behavior through reinforcement is one way we get more of it. Leaving the person to experience only the negative reactions, to the change that was made, is a sure way to watch it die. Since my goal is to see more focus on taxpayer rights, providing positive reinforcement is one action I can take to help the situation. There is something about winning over a constant critic that does provide incentive.

Truly, the effort is not all that hard. When you are at a restaurant and you get great service, tell the manager. You can be sure that the person who got the wrong order, did not like the meal they ordered, or just had a bad day, will say something. However, there are far fewer people who do stop and say something positive and specific about why the service was good and it is meaningful. This works well for anyone who works with the public. Do not hesitate to tell people they have done well.

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