I listened to a brilliant lecture a few years ago that suggested at its completion, that we should each think of someone we were grateful to, call them, tell them we were grateful and why, and ask for nothing.
The power of saying thankyou
The importance of asking for nothing in return, or of pursuing any conversation beyond saying thankyou and why, was emphasised by this lecturer. He said that thanks wielded much more power when offered in isolation.
Frankly, this sounded like a bit of hocus-pocus to me. I was not at all clear on the benefits of such an action, no matter how justified. Nonetheless, I did it anyway.
I began by pondering and considering all the people I was thankful to. There were so many and the longer I thought about it, the more names that came to mind. This in itself was beneficial in that I realised, perhaps for the first time, how many people had contributed to my life, and just how much I had to be thankful for.
To this day, I take a moment each morning to ponder people and things I have to be thankful for. It minimises any sense of loneliness or aloneness I may feel. It also reinforces in my mind just how fortunate I am. Along with pondering what is going well in life, it helps to ensure a positive start to the day.
Having a list of people to thank, I had to make a choice about who to start with. I chose a businessman who identified a business opportunity for me many years eaarlier, which ultimately changed my life on so many levels. He then helped to facilitate the deal, with very little gain for himself. He chose to help a friend and that friend was me.
Having made my choice, I turned to make the call, since he was a little far away to thank in person. But then, having picked up the phoner, I hesitated. What I was going to say and how he would respond, given that the events in question occurred 20 years earlier? Would he think I'd lost the plot? Would he wonder what the fuck was going on?
Avoiding dwelling on these questions, I just made the call, which he duly answered in his usual lively manner. After some greeting and small talk, I got to the purpose of my call.
I said: “Ron, I called to say thankyou, thankyou for the help you gave me back in 1988 -- and thankyou for being a good friend.''
There was silence.
He eventually responded: ''It was a pleasure, but what has brought this on?'' I responded by saying: ''I never really thanked you enough back then and it occurred to me only this morning how much you have contributed to my career.''
Again silence, before he said: ''Well thankyou John (with a very definite smile in his voice). He asked if there was anything else, I said no, we wished each other a good day and hung up.
Once I had hung up the phone I realised that when I uttered the words thankyou two things had happened. Firstly, I had brightened the day of a friend. He felt better about life and his day ahead. Secondly, I had also brightened my day.
He felt good because he felt appreciated. I felt good because I had given something unconditionally.
When I first pondered the merits of this topic for this post, I wondered if it was important enough to warrant 30 minutes of my writing time and five minutes of your reading time. It did, purely because saying thankyou is such a simple way to brighten two lives, in a world where this is increasingly harder to achieve.
Try it. Say thankyou to someone every day. Tell them what you are saying thankyou for and say nothing else. It will be a good experience for you both.
PS: a thankyou by email or text doesn't count. You have to say thanks face to face or, at the very least, by phone. For the impact to be fulsome, they need to hear your voice and know that you made an effort.
Tell me how it goes for you!