40 hours of saying thank you
Appreciation | January 24, 2012
It’s official, I just wrote my 800th thank-you note! At an average of three minutes per note, that’s an entire work week of saying thanks.
I used to hate writing thank-you notes. I’d buy a lovely set of cards from Thanks, take a crisp envelope out of its crinkly packaging and begin to write out the address in my neatest handwriting. I’d stamp the return address on the top-left corner, making sure it was nice and straight, then I’d affix the stamp on the top right so that everything was ready to go except for the whole writing-the-note part.
I’d open the card and stare at the stark white insides, interrupted by only the crease running down the center, calling to me for some words of gratitude and I’d go possum. I wanted to express how incredible it was that this person had taken his own time and given extra effort to support something that I thought was important. I wanted to be sure that I put together something poetic that would let her know that I was sacrificing a bit of my own time because she made a sacrifice herself. Instead, I found myself desiring to be anywhere else and anybody else, for my skin was the most uncomfortable suit I had ever worn. Ugh, I would have to be creative!
As an appreciateologist, I realized early on that it was my duty to walk the talk. I wanted to live the values I espouse to companies about the importance of taking a few minutes to let people know how I notice what they’ve had done and why that matters.
So, I’ve stuck with it. And over time, my thank-you notes have become easier and easier to write. My breakthrough moment? I found a structure that made each note personal and unique. And I kept writing notes until I’ve found myself here today with 800 notes written in four years.
Truly, I don’t hate writing thank-you notes anymore. I’m now compelled to thank–it’s an addiction. I’m ready to change my number to 1-800-THANK-YOU! If I experience anything that resulted from another person’s effort, I must send them a note. I can’t not. I can, however, wonder what the benefit is of all this time and postage.
And so, it was with enthusiasm that I read the recent research by Adam Grant and Francesca Gino of Wharton’s business school, that asked the same question: what’s the benefit of thanking? Conducting four separate experiments, Grant and Gino determined how much more likely people were to help out when they did or didn’t thank research participants.
In my favorite experiment, subjects signed up for a study in which they were told they’d be providing feedback to a college student on his or her job application cover letter in return for $10 US. The first group gave their feedback and an automated system sent a confirmation from the alleged student’s email address that indicated the information was received. In the second group, the only change was that the email message indicating the information was received also stated “Thank you so much! I am really grateful.”
In both groups, the email continued with a request for additional feedback on a second cover letter. The randomly assigned subjects in the control group voluntarily provided help for the second cover letter 32% of the time. The subjects in the experimental group, where the only addition was the sentence stating appreciation for the work done, had a response rate of 66%. The interpretation is that by enabling helpers to feel more socially valued, they are twice as likely to put forth the non-required effort.
There are lots of ways for leaders and peers to recognize one another. Cool systems and meaningful awards provide methods for rewarding results when people make a measurable difference. When it comes to noticing effort and encouraging somebody to keep kicking tail, there’s nothing like The Thank You Note. Research supports its efficacy and my experience is that it gets easier as you stick with it. And I have yet to meet a soul yet who didn’t love a nicely written and thoughtfully scribed thank you note.
How do you prefer to say thanks? The fountain pen and the card for personalization or social appreciation so others can share in the moment?