What do you say when someone says “Thank you?”
“It’s nothing”?/”No worries”?
“Don’t worry about it”?
“It’s my pleasure”?
I try and say “You’re welcome” – with any qualification added later.
There is a reason for this – I feel it’s important to acknowledge the gift of gratitude or a compliment which doesn’t actually need to be given.
Gratitude is important, but it is not always given so freely, so recognise it when it is.
At the moment, every Thursday, we are applauding the Nation’s Keyworkers In turn they applauded Captain Tom Moore’s walk, and while perhaps there is a sense of “We’re just doing our jobs that have taken cuts, felt a little underappreciated and gone largely unnoticed for years” – the supportive community spirit has certainly brought us all together emotionally at a time when we have been told to stay physically apart…and there is a clear sense of recognition as to who the real heroes are.
…and I love going out on Thursdays to clap. But is this because it gives me a sense of purpose in an ever reducing schedule? Is it because I’ve been told to? In this case, I am not at all cynical of motivation – I believe that others, like me enjoy watching the live scenes through my living room window, hearing my neighbours, and most importantly recognising that there are some amazing people out there putting their lives on the line – for us.
But then, I love gratitude in general. I make a rule for myself that for every letter of complaint I write I also write a “thank you”, and on balance I think my “thanks” now outweighs the former. Yet “thanks” is often met with embarrassment and even at times “rejection”.
Of course it sounds petty to say if I take the trouble to thank you and you dismiss it with “It’s nothing” that I feel rejected!? But, think about it – before COVID-19 - people don’t have to (and didn’t always) say “thank you”, and they certainly didn’t always to go to the effort of doing it nicely. But also, thanks is a bit like compliments – they don’t have to be given, so when you dismiss them with “Oh, that’s just because of x/y/z (ie. not “me”)”, or “Ah-ha-ha-ha.” It’s a shame. AND, actually it’s a shame for YOU.
I personally don’t mind how my gratitude or my compliments are taken – I simply work to give them freely, although genuinely. But for you, if you can’t “hear” me, I question whether you struggle to recognise your true value at all…
Not accepting thanks may reveal low self-value
…and it IS worse for keyworkers in care professions (eg. Nurses, teachers)…also the subject of my PhD thesis. I interviewed people who care as part of their job as extra to the hard, practical skills of the role. Many of them are drawn to the profession because of the desire to care…but in turn I found this could sometimes be linked to low self-esteem, eg. Helping others makes me feel better about myself…and validation of the self comes through appreciation from others – but – the irony there is these very same people do not always “hear” the appreciation, but they feel the lack of it. (This may not apply to everyone of course, but if you are in a care profession and you are also the type of person who is often told “you collect strays” – I write about this in this article ).
The power of gratitude
Gratitude is empowering for the person offering it, because they begin to focus on all the things of value in their loves right now. There’s a bonus when the gratitude is accepted. But as much as it is “British” to shrug it off, I’m going to challenge you to accept any thanks (or any compliments) you get this week, for the following reason:
It is a reminder you made a difference to someone, and by that token, they are trying to make a difference to you too.
“Oh it was nothing”/”Everyone does it…”
These are popular phrases from the clients who come to me for confidence coaching. My response is the same to each:
“Let’s look at how “nothing” it was”
“No, not everybody DOES do it…YOU do – and just because you find it easy or natural, doesn’t mean it’s not meaningful nor important.”
By learning to recognise what you do has value, you may also begin to appreciate that you have value too.
You may think these things are “Nothing” – but they are meaningful to someone
Of course there is the list of things that the “NHS Volunteer army” is doing right now – picking up supplies, bringing people to health appointments, collecting prescriptions – they too are certainly included in my thanks on Thursdays – and really, in all my thoughts… But there are little things that they probably also do every day, smaller things which they may not even realise have made a huge difference:
1. Sharing a friend’s blog post/article (Facebook is your personal platform and NOT a free marketing tool for your friends to presume to use! Every share is special.) (Even a “Like” keeps a post’s visibility “bumped”)
2. Buying from a friend’s business and leaving a review. Again this is a little show of support, as independent businesses struggle on startup anyway – and a thoughtful review/testimonial (as long as it is honest) can make a big difference both professionally and personally. (I've been truly touched to receive beautiful "thank yous" from ex students/clients and they aren't simply "used on my website" - I look at those any time I get tired and ask "Is it worth it?"...yes it is - because of you.)
3. A handwritten note. This is something I’ve been so touched to receive recently – especially when in “Lockdown” –…as much as I am in touch through social media, holding something handwritten enabled me to have that element of “YOU” with me.
4. Linked to the above – staying in touch. Many people have felt closer to friends and family since lockdown and I wonder if it is because we are calling people rather than texting? Again hearing a voice and seeing a face is giving someone the gift of time…and time that isn’t spent half in a conversation and half texting someone else. But, just simply checking in – at any time – is a lovely reminder that you are being thought about.
5. Gift giving – the small, spontaneous gestures (outside the “occasions”). Like the handwritten notes, I have received a few care packages (and not just during lockdown) – and these remind me that someone is not only thinking of me, and spending money on me – but has taken the trouble to go to the post office too!!
6. Making someone a cup of tea. We have more opportunity to do that working from home, but one thing an ex student, a Teaching Assistant, once said to me when I was programme managing an FE vocational teaching course was “I’d had such a hard day, and the Teacher brough me a cup of tea…it was so thoughtful of her, I actually cried.”
7. Giving someone space. That’s probably especially important right now when it’s harder to “just go for a walk”, but as long as you do find quality time for each other too, I think it’s healthy for people in a relationship to pursue their own interests. It is harder when one person may need more attention than the other – but it’s not impossible to negotiate.
8. Listening. That sometimes means just doing that. Listening – with no desire to problem solve, advise not even speak – just listening to someone, can demonstrate they are worth someone’s time.
9. Doing something because someone else wants to…gladly. This is an interesting one because sometimes you will be asked to do things that you may not be keen to do – but saying “no” is far nicer than agreeing and whinging or holding someone to account about it the whole time! I never object to anyone asking for clarification, information or help directly of course!
10. Accepting thanks and accepting a compliment. By all means, follow up “You’re welcome” with a qualifier, but do hold that appreciation for a moment.
So, everyone who has done any of the above for me – I thank you, truly, I hope you can accept that gratitude – not least for your inspiration right now.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Learn more about her at www.draudreyt.com, or follow her on Twitter/IG @draudreyt. Her YouTube Channel with confidence building techniques and interventions is The Wellness League