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Saying "Thank You" – Why It's So Important and How To Do It

"Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone"
G.B. Stern
Saying thank you – it's everyday etiquette and a simply courtesy that takes just a moment. It costs nothing, not even effort.
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But it's also one of the most important ways in which we interact with others, both those closest to us and those with whom we have contact for the briefest of times.

We say thank you for gifts, thank you for special favors, and thank you for assistance in times of need. But it's not only the big things where thank you matters. We also say thank you as we're handed our change in the store, thank you to someone who holds the door for us, and thank you to the person who passes us the salt at dinner.

It's a phrase that is pretty much ubiquitous. But it's never unwelcome, and it can mean so much.

Do you say thank you enough?

So, how often do you say thank you? Do you say thank you only to those you love, those you wish to impress or judge to be important? Or do you liberally sprinkle your daily interactions with these two golden words?

How often have you felt bad because you forgot to say thank you, or didn't take a moment to thank someone properly? And how often have you felt resentful or cross when someone else failed to say thank you to you? 'They could have at least said thank you!', you think. Or, 'how rude! She didn't even bother to say thank you!'

Talk to the hand. Photo: flickr.com/photos/carbonnycTalk to the hand
Many social commentators bemoan how rude people are in modern life. And in particular they despair about how people neglect to be grateful – specifically that they fail to say thank you. In fact, in Talk to the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today author Lynn Truss cites the humble 'thank you' as one of the major weapons essential to stemming the tide of everyday rudeness.

The message is clear: Forgetting or neglecting to say thank you is rude. Not only does it upset and annoy people, it makes you look bad. However important or busy you are, it's always right to thank people, however small the thing they have done for you.

But just why is it that saying thank you is so very important? Why do we feel so hurt and let down when someone doesn't thank us? Isn't it just an empty ritual? A meaningless reflex?

Well, the fact is that 'thank you' has something truly magic about it. Like sorry, it's just words, but they act as shorthand for so much more. Thank you shows our appreciation and conveys our gratitude. But more than that, it is a sign of respect to the person who has helped you (or given you something). It is an indication you do not take them for granted, and an acknowledgement that they matter. And that is why saying thank you matters.

The Rewards of Saying Thank You

Saying thank you certainly matters to the person you say it to, but it can have great rewards for you too. Sure, you can get a long way without it, but you'll get a lot further with it!

People who make a habit of saying thank you receive better service. What's more, they often find that people are ready and willing to 'go the extra mile' on their behalf. And of course showing gratitude to family, friends and colleagues will result in positive payback in all kinds of ways, from a happier home life to increased success in business. In fact several well-known business gurus claim that the secret of their success is almost entirely down to taking the time to say thank you.

Perhaps this isn't so surprising when you consider that studies repeatedly show that thanks and appreciation are in many cases a bigger motivator than a pay rise!

Being polite isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the savvy thing to do.

How to say thank you

Saying thank you is simple. In fact it's so easy that it's amazing that so many people get it wrong, or fail to do it at all. There are just four important steps to saying thank you effectively and successfully in person:

1. Make eye contact (very important if you want to appear sincere!)

2. Smile

3. Speak in a clear, friendly voice. Don't mutter!

4. Be specific – what exactly are you thanking the person for?

For example:
Thank you for your help with this.
Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
Thank you for the delicious dinner.

If you're thanking someone you know then it is also good to add their name:
Mary, thank you so much for giving me a lift today.

And if you know the person well, and if it is appropriate, you can add a touch on the arm, a hug, even a kiss.

And that's it. Job done.

Of course, if you don't have the chance to express your thanks in person, or if you don't feel that a verbal thank you is sufficient, then you should send a thank you note, card or letter. Writing them is not hard! You'll find all the help you need right here on this site.

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