How do you say ‘Thank You’?

How do you say Thanks?   There are hundreds of ways to do it.   A study a few years back found the average American says “Thank you”  2,000 times/year.  That actually sounds a little low.   But the unfortunate flip-side of this was that although we say thank you at a fairly high rate, we actually only mean it about 50% of the time.  What’s at play?

We say and do a lot of things out of habit.  A lot of habits could fall into the 4th and final stage of learning called “unconscious competence”.    It’s so easy and comfortable that it’s second nature to you.  That could easily be the case with how we have been conditioned to say thanks.   From a young age in Manners 101 we are taught to say please and thank you.  Chances are you probably say thank you without putting much thought into it.  It’s almost a reflex.  

In fact, “Thank you” and “You’re Welcome” two of those gratitude comments we learned in Manners 101 are often misused, one for the other.  “Thank you” is used when “You’re Welcome” is more appropriate and vice versa.   Listen and observe for this and you’ll be surprised how often it happens.  They’re both ways of showing gratitude so the intention is good, but it does help explain why 50% of the time we may be saying ‘Thank you’ and not really meaning it.

Which leads to the question of what can we do to re-energize a “Thank you” with thoughtfulness, intention, and more meaning?   With purpose, so it’s not just a couple words that unconsciously roll out of our mouths or get typed into a text or email?   


Reenergizing Thank You’s…

On a broader scale, challenge yourself to try and say Thank you in different ways.  The milli-second you spend thinking of a different way to say ‘Thank you’, will instantaneously impact your voice inflection and body language so it comes across more intentional and sincere.  You can even lead with “Thank you”, but just add a few words to personalize it to the situation. 

Some examples might be:  “Thank you…

                   I really appreciate that.”   

                   That’s very kind of you.”

                    I really owe you one.”

                   What a thoughtful thing to do.”

                   This is a perfect. “


On a more direct level with a co-worker, client, business associate, friend, or family member consider turning it up a notch; give what author, Mark Goulston calls the “Power Thank You”  when it really matters.   The process is pretty easy.  It just takes a little more effort.  It has 3 simple steps.

  1. Thank them for what they specifically did.  A good example is someone going above and beyond.  For instance, “Susan, thanks for working over the three-day weekend to get that presentation ready for the conference next week.  Because of it, we’ll be able to explain our position with confidence and clarity like never before.”
  2. Acknowledge to the effort (or personal sacrifice) it took to do the action above. “I realize how important your family is to you, and I know you missed most of the weekend spending time with them.  But your dedication to this has motivated everyone else to rally behind your message and see that we are there to support this important initiative.”
  3. Tell them what it personally meant to you. “You know the topic of this presentation has been a passion of mine and I can’t tell you how excited I am to know that it’s finally going to be communicated to all our constituents in such a succinct and powerful presentation.  This truly means the world to me.  Thank you!”

A genuine Power Thank You will go a long way in letting someone know you don’t take their efforts for granted and you truly value whatever it is you’re thanking them for.  

What do you think?  How do you say thanks?  The bottom line is we could probably all practice being more thankful and do a better job of acknowledging others who positively impact our lives.    And, there are plenty of opportunities to step it up a notch and give Power Thank You’s throughout the course of year.

At Aspire, we probably don’t say it enough either, but “Thank You” to all of the business owners and leaders who have entrusted us to be a part of your business.  We truly value each of those relationships.  It is our great honor to help your companies navigate the constantly changing challenges of owning and running a business.  It is so rewarding to be a part of a company’s journey as they prosper and grow, and for that we are very grateful.   

Finally, if you’re looking for a meaningful activity around the Thanksgiving table consider this Exercise in Gratitude.

Happy Thanksgiving from Aspire to You and Yours.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach