Why is saying thank you so important? How do we remember to say thank you? How do we teach the next generation the important trait of saying thank you?
Recently, I spoke to people interviewing for jobs. I talked about all the good aspects of a memorable job interview. When I finished my presentation, I gave everyone in the audience a black thank you card along with a stamped self-addressed envelope to be mailed to me. I told the audience that I bought the thank you cards at a dollar store or pharmacy.
I had never before given thank you cards to an audience. I asked each person to write me a note of thanks. Why? I wanted each person to pretend I was the person who had interviewed them for a job. I told the audience that as a perspective employer I might see you, a job seeker, as a unique and exceptional person who was truly grateful for the interview opportunity. I told them that a thank you note might provide leverage to obtain the job. I challenged my listeners to write me a thank you note. I had never tried this strategy as a job coach before.
About 25% of the audience sent me a note. I was excited to receive the notes. I believed that each writer who acted on my suggestion was scripting their future. Writing a thank you note to a possible employer was my original idea.
However, I was inspired after reading one of the most helpful books I have ever read, Switch. The authors of Switch write about “scripting” the next move. That is the idea I was hoping, by leading by my example, to communicate to my audience. How do we learn to be grateful and how do we teach our children to be grateful?
My parents taught me how and when to say thank you. They reinforced this trait both publicly and privately, sometimes kindly and occasionally forcefully. My only option was to conform.
They also told me that being an ungrateful son would be a negative reflection of their parenting. I did not see the immediate value of their teachings. However, I began to slowly understand that a thankful son is a child who ensures and safeguards his parents reputations.
I was educated in Sri Lanka, a former British Colony of the English Commonwealth. British schooling taught the principles of being a “proper person”. When one was a grateful or thankful person, he was “being proper”. I learned that being grateful was just as important as achieving academic and athletic success. Our schools held learning how and when to be grateful in high esteem.
I do not claim that “being proper was solely the British philosophy of teaching, but I believe the British were reinforcing values that are biblical and Judeo- Christian themes.
I believe that saying thank you is often times not enough. I believe that if I am giving thanks that I must give those whom I am thanking more than spoken words. Therefore I am in the habit of writing thank you cards.
I feel the act of doing so ensures my private and public reputation which is literally so important to me. I have used my energy and creativity to say thank you and also have had fun doing so. Hopefully those who receive my notes see me as an exceptional person with the reputation of being sincerely thankful.
I honored my mother and father by learning how and when to be thankful, and I wish my children to be a positive reflection of their parents by learning that being thankful and grateful is an important trait.
Recently, my oldest child was a weekend guest at the Jersey Shore. I told my son that he should write his wonderful hosts a thank you note and send it to them. I persisted with my suggestion until he complied.
What motivated me? I wanted to teach my son what my parents taught me: learn how to be thankful and be a good, positive reflection of the family that is raising him. Also, I wanted his host family to see that his parents were training him well.
Teaching job seekers and/or children to write thank you notes hopefully reinforces the trait of gratefulness.
The sincerely grateful soul is a good person who is always thankful. This personal brand remains affixed in the hearts and minds of those who know you.