My Life System #73: Thanking Others

One word we all like to hear is “Thanks” and yet we don’t use it enough with others. None of us are Robinson Crusoes living all by ourselves on an island; we are forever dependent on others. A “Thank You” is a good habit to cultivate – it brightens the recipient’s day and it makes us feel good.

There is a sound economic explanation for being thankful. Jon Stossel writes: “How many times have you paid $1 for a cup of coffee and after the clerk said, “Thank you,” you responded, “Thank you”? There’s a wealth of economics wisdom in the weird double thank-you moment. Why does it happen? Because you want the coffee more than the buck, and the store wants the buck more than the coffee. Both of you win. Economists have long understood that two people trade because each wants what the other has more than what he already has. In their respective eyes, the things traded are unequal in value. But this means each comes out ahead, having given up something he wants less for something he wants more. It’s just not true that one gains and the other loses. If that were the case, the loser wouldn’t have traded. It’s win-win, or as economists would say, positive-sum. We experience this every time we have that double thank-you moment in a store or restaurant.”

Irrespective of how many challenges life throws at us, there is much that we have to thank others for – not just our parents, teachers or colleagues at work, but also the kindness of strangers. The person in the bus who got up so we could sit, the person in the queue who let us go ahead because we were in a hurry, the bellman at the hotel who held the door ajar as we were trying to lug the suitcases with both hands, the bus conductor who waited a few seconds extra so we could get on board, the sales person in a store who went the extra distance to ensure we got what we wanted, the person who stopped for a few seconds to help us find what we are looking for in a foreign city. Every one of these interactions was done without expectation of reciprocity; every such moment is a “thank you” moment. We may probably never see that person again, but a gracious acknowledgement from us ensures the cycle of good deeds continues. In some cases, we may be the recipient, while at other times, we may be the doer.

From The Clean Space: “Martin Seligman, a leader in the field of Positive Psychology, wrote “when we take time to notice the things that go right – it means we’re getting a lot of little rewards throughout the day”– it’s a virtuous cycle that only makes you feel better and better. Every time you express or receive gratitude, your brain releases dopamine, making a recurring connection between the action and feeling good. It also helps reduce stress reactions in your body.”

We will all echo James Clear’s sentiment: “I’m starting to believe that “Thank You” is the most under-appreciated and under-used phrase on the planet. It is appropriate in nearly any situation and it is a better response than most of the things we say.” So, let’s make this small change in ourselves: thank others when appropriate. And hopefully, we will have our own experience of the “double thank-you” moment.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.