Step-Up Your Gratitude Game

If you are grateful but don’t take the time tell anyone, does it count? In a way, it’s like wrapping a present and not delivering it… When shown appropriately, gratitude has tremendous power. At a minimum, it will keep you from appearing ungrateful. On the other end of the spectrum, well-expressed thanks can open doors, solidify relationships, and change careers. The key to giving and getting with gratitude is knowing who, when , and how to thank.

When shown appropriately, gratitude has tremendous power. Click To Tweet
  1. Who to Thank?

Thank up; thank down; thank out, thank around.

Thank up; thank down; thank out; and thank around. Click To Tweet

Thank up. When leaders take the time to support you, provide you with an opportunity, or include you in something to which you’re not usually privy—thank them. Chances are, the next time they are deciding to whom they will extend an invitation, your name will appear higher on the list than it might have had you failed to recognize an earlier kindness.

Thank down. Maybe some of your team members stayed late to finish preparations for an upcoming event. Perchance someone put forth extra effort to create a presentation. Perhaps a team member who has had a hard time meeting expectations finally does so. If you want those types of activities to continue to occur, recognize them.

Thank out. Customers will be more loyal if they feel acknowledged. If you want to grow your network, doesn’t it make sense to nurture the relationships you have with them?

Thank around. Do you take the time to thank the cleaning staff in your office? Have you done anything to appreciate the cafeteria’s cashier? How about the security guard? A lot of people forget those individuals, and they shouldn’t. After all, chances are nobody would miss the CEO if he or she were absent for a few days. Try that with the janitorial staff—not a pretty thought.

2. When to Thank

The world would be a kinder and gentler place if people displayed more grace. People would feel motivated, appreciated, and valued.  And as with most activities, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. But be warned: you must choose well. Recognizing people inappropriately is worse than not recognizing them at all.

The world would be a kinder and gentler place if people displayed more grace. Click To Tweet Recognizing people inappropriately is worse than not recognizing them at all. Click To Tweet

For example, ask any kid how much a certificate, award, or trophy received for some trivial activity meant to him. If you don’t already know, the answer is a whole lot of “zero.” Kids are not stupid, and neither are the big people they turn into.

Gratitude should feel real and be relevant. If either one of those elements is missing, your “thank you” will most likely seem hollow.

Gratitude should feel real and be relevant. Click To Tweet

3. How to Thank

The words “thank you” are an adequate choice for acknowledging common courtesies shown to you. However, when people go beyond the basics, your recognition should as well. By following a few simple guidelines, you can quickly and easily step up your gratitude game.

Get specific. Focus on a detail, and your “thank you” will mean more. For instance, “The lemon muffins you made and brought to the team meeting today were some of the best I’ve ever had. The glaze was amazing. You were so thoughtful to share them with us.” That’s a whole lot better than “Thanks for the muffins.”

Get personal. Share with others how what they’ve done meant something to you, and your thanks will both seem and be more sincere. With a little thought, you can connect feelings to the most mundane topics. For example, “John, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed and appreciated your presentation this afternoon. I’ve struggled with using PowerPoint animations and never been able to get them to look professional. I learned a lot from watching what you did. You have real talent.”

Get creative. Ironically, the phrase “thank you” hinders most people’s ability to express gratitude effectively. Avoid using the phrase at the start of your sentences, and you’ll find you are more imaginative. For instance, “Thank you for allowing me to attend today’s meeting. I appreciate the opportunity to be included in the decision-making process.” That’s okay, but consider the following: “I learned a lot about the decision-making process at this meeting. I never understood how the committee system worked until today. It was real eye opener. I appreciate you allowing me to attend.” Choice number two is stronger and it doesn’t use the words “thank you.”

Get to your keyboard. Email is appropriate when a verbal “thank you” seems a bit inadequate or is not possible. Although you don’t want to fill people’s inboxes with unnecessary messages, recognize that for most folks, it is a pleasure to receive an occasional note of appreciation among the usual dreck. Start typing.

Its a pleasure to receive an occasional note of appreciation among the usual dreck. Click To Tweet

Get out your stationery. If you really want to show your thanks, think “old school.” These days, hand-written notes are few and far between, so when you take the time to craft one, it won’t go unnoticed. Write at least three sentences using your best penmanship, focus on a detail, and tell your recipients how what they’ve done for you has made a difference.

So there you have it: the who, what, and how of a good “thank you.” I sincerely appreciate your taking the time to consider these ideas. As you might imagine, it’s great to feel as if what you have to say might be useful to someone. You’ve made my day. Thank you!


kate zabriskieKate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. 



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