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How to Say ‘Thank You’ Better with 3 Simple Steps

Monday 2 November 2020

8 minute read

By Sarah Burns

At a time when communication with your team may not be straight-forward, thanks to masks, home-working, virtual meetings, poor WiFi, social distancing, etc., it’s important to look at ways to boost opportunities for appreciation. 

One of the ways you can implement a better way of communicating, is the way you say thank you, according to Emiliana Simon-Thomas, Ph.D., science director at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center via Inc

Her method for giving thanks, ‘Gratitude 1-2-3’ is something you may have had done to you previously, or perhaps you’ve done it to someone else, and if you have then you’ll know the impact is stunning.

It’s a fairly simple method, but one way of saying thanks that we usually don’t think as ‘necessary’:

  1. Be specific about what you’re grateful for
  2. Acknowledge the effort that person has put in
  3. Describe how it has benefited you

For instance, “Thank you Rachael for scheduling those social media accounts further ahead than normal. It gives me peace of mind that we can focus on other work priorities.” 

That’s a sentence I may have never said until now, but it’s one that is vital for the recipient, in this make-believe instance, my colleague, Rachael. 

How do I usually say thank you? At best it’s probably “Thanks, that was really appreciated!”

In late 2020 when most of our conversations take place over Slack or email it’s something like this:

Yay, it's now showing how it should!



Yep, that’s what I genuinely wrote in a ‘thank you’ email I sent to Rachael as recently as two weeks ago.

Of course, some things don’t require the Gratitude 1-2-3 method, but it’s important to do this every so often, especially when a GIF can say so much (but mean so little), and we’re all adapting to the ‘new normal’ (gah, I’m bored of that now)...

1. Be specific about what you’re grateful for

Simon-Thomas says most people are pretty good at expressing gratitude to others. "What we're bad at is expressing our gratitude with enough specificity to really reap the benefits of the felt experience ourselves, and to draw out the strongest response from the person we're saying thank you to," she explained.

It’s important to share in the experience, so they’ve done something great for you, or what they’ve done has a shared benefit, so set up your phrasing as such: 

  • “Thank you for inviting me to that meeting, it was great for both of us to be involved.”
  • “Thank you for identifying that new tool that will help us track the time we spend on projects, it will really help us improve productivity as a team.”

2. Acknowledge the effort that person has put in

Ensure that when you say thank you for particularly laborious projects or work. Just acknowledging that it may have been time-consuming, or challenging, is massively appreciated - you know it, they know it, just come out and say it, recognising their efforts positively:

  • “I know you managed to complete that task in spite of having a long list of other things to do, so it’s really appreciated.”
  • “I really appreciate that it will have taken up a lot of time that you hadn’t planned, so thank you for being so efficient.”

Remember, employees can appreciate being appreciated over pay, according to some studies: 

A study from Appirio revealed:

"60% of the workers surveyed said that when they're analysing a job offer, the most important factor is knowing whether management appreciates employees, while only 4% said they were most concerned with how often employees are evaluated for raises."

3. Describe how it has benefited you

Finally, it’s important to add a personal spin on your new way of saying thanks, by describing how their efforts have positively affected you and your workday: 

  • “Having that spreadsheet completed has allowed me to fly through the invoicing much faster, allowing me to hold that new client meeting I hadn't expected to make.”
  • “I have been able to spend time mentoring our new apprentice, because you’ve cleared my desk of those admin tasks, allowing us to upskill our newbie much faster than planned.”

Remember, it shouldn’t need to be awkward, painful, or exhausting…

Practice your efforts and think twice before you send a ‘Thanks’ GIF. Of course, some tasks and scenarios don’t require much more than a breezy thanks but every now and then think about Gratitude 1-2-3 and make your colleague’s day by recognising how they go the extra mile… you’d be surprised by the impact it can have!

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