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How to Say Thanks the Right Way

Picture of Angela Guido

Angela Guido

People help you grow.

They help you advance. They create opportunities for you. The support of others is like kindling for your career. No, not kindling, rocket fuel. It’s what makes it possible for you to travel to the stars you’re aiming for. Without it, you’re not gonna go that far.

And. You’ve got to thank them. Generously, often, and vividly. Most people get this wrong. They forget to follow up when someone helped them out. They don’t close the loop on the favor. Or they send a feeble “Thank you so much for your help.”

When you thank someone and really share with them the contribution they made to your life, it completes the circle and clears the slate. This allows them to open up and give again.

The feeling of thank you

Think about this in your own life. Did you ever give someone a really thoughtful gift? Or did you ever do something kind for someone – no matter how small or big? And then later, they came back and let you know how much it meant to them? This is not the same as the thank you they said in the moment you gave the gift or did the deed. This is a later follow up where they conveyed how your action impacted them over time.

You know what I’m talking about. Maybe you lent someone a book you thought they’d like and they came back and gave you a  note of appreciation, telling you how much it affected their life. Or you told someone about a great restaurant and they sent you a picture of the meal they really enjoyed there with a big thank you. Or you taught someone a few PowerPoint tricks and they later told you how much time it saved them in making a recent deck. Take a moment to remember a specific instance of this in your own life.

Didn’t that feel amazing? Didn’t it further endear you to that friend? Didn’t it make you want to go out and find another gift to give them or another deed to do, so you could continue that upward spiral of growing affinity and connection between you?

Humans hate open-ended cycles

Now consider a good deed without thanks. Did you ever do something nice for someone and then they failed to follow up? Maybe you recommended them for a job interview or introduced them to an esteemed colleague, and then you never found out what happened? That good deed went unacknowledged and the loop was never closed. In your experience, you may as well never have done the deed in the first place, and your friend missed an opportunity to deepen his or her relationship with you.

This is not about kudos or credit. If you were disappointed that your friend never followed up with you, it’s probably not because you needed the ego boost of acknowledgement. It’s because the circle of your own action didn’t get closed, and the exchange was never completed. You weren’t able to share in the success, so from your perspective, your time went into a vacuum and never came out.

You can think of this as simple cause and effect. If you took an action, as a human being, you just can’t help but want to know its effect. How did it turn out? How did the story end? Our reaction to this kind of open-ended chain of events can range from numbness to mild irritation to extreme frustration. But one thing’s for sure, it’s not a positive feeling.

This happens all the time in relationships. Frequently our actions and contributions go unacknowledged, and for the most part, it’s not a big deal. We live with it. But notice how much more willing you are to give to the people who acknowledge your contribution. Why not decide to be one of those people?

That means that whenever anyone contributes to you– whether they give you easy advice in passing or engage deeply in providing detailed feedback over time –close the loop and acknowledge them. We call this…

Vivid Appreciation

Say thanks with these two key pieces:

1. Appreciation

Appreciation might be the very most important word in this entire blog. Appreciation is the secret key to keeping good energy flowing to and through you. It’s the key to unlocking the generosity of others.

You can never appreciate too much. I would even go so far as to recommend taking up Appreciation Journaling and cataloging every day in intimate detail all the aspects of your life and your experience that you appreciated that day. A central source of truth that captures your feelings of gratitude. A handwritten note to yourself. You might be surprised at the effect this has on every aspect of your life.

But with your mentors, just privately appreciating them in your own mind is not enough. You need to show your appreciation.

And you already know how to say thanks. It doesn’t require a gift or a grand gesture. A few simple words can do it. Here are some words to try:

  • Thank you so much for _________.
  • I can’t tell you how much I appreciate _________.
  • It meant so much to me that you _________.
  • It was such a contribution to me when you _________.
  • You really made a difference in my life with your _________.

Get creative. Want to say thanks with a song? Try these ideas. Need a card to speak for you? Go here. Prefer to say thanks with a donation in someone’s honor to help make the world a better place? definitely go here. This part is pretty easy. The next part is a little trickier and just as important.

2. Vivid Detail

Say thanks. It’s a huge and important step. But talk is pretty cheap. Even with one of the eloquent expressions above, if you stop there, your colleague may not understand how they have benefited you. They won’t necessarily be able to appreciate the effect of their actions, your intended expression of gratitude, meaning that you aren’t fully returning the gift to them and they aren’t getting to share the success.

Consider these examples. Imagine you are on the receiving end of these communiques:

  1. Thank you.
  2. Thank you so much for your kind advice.
  3. Thank you so much for your kind advice; it really meant a lot to me.

Each of these is better than the last – stronger and clearer in the mind of the listener, but consider this one:

  • Thank you so much for your kind advice; it really meant a lot to me because it was the thing I needed to hear to FINALLY understand what I was doing wrong in my communication with my team. The meeting I led after we spoke was night and day better than the last one, and I really appreciate that you were able to help me out with the perfect insight when I needed it.

Wouldn’t you MUCH rather be on the receiving end of THIS kind of thank you? When you thank a mentor this way, you are completely closing the loop on their generosity and you are giving it back to them. Say thanks. But do it with Vivid Appreciation.

We all want to be of service. We all want to make a difference. And we all want to know that our time and efforts are having a positive impact in the world. Vivid Appreciation allows your mentor to fully experience all of those things: being of service, making a difference, and understanding their impact. And when someone can experience the positive effects of their own labor, they are far more likely to continue that labor.

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