Thanking people is a lost art. Or rather, we’re thanking people so much these days – “Thank you for your time,” “Thank you for sharing,” “Thank you for your consideration,” “thx”– that we’re never taking the time to thank anyone. Let me clarify what I mean. Thanking has become generic, almost only an indicator of politeness, expected at the end of an email, interview or after someone does you a favor. The problem isn’t that we are ungrateful for what we have or what people do for us; the problem is that we rarely voice this real gratitude and thank those who deserve to be thanked.
Back in fall quarter (which now feels like ages ago), I began writing post-it notes to friends and leaving them on their desks, doors, shelves. They were simple thank-yous and take-cares, and though I didn’t necessarily get a note back, I always got a hug, a smile or a spoken thanks. Come Thanksgiving, the dorm’s lovely RFs put out a basket of cards, envelopes, and pens. That evening, along with some helpers, I distributed thank-you cards to residents, giving them in person or slipping them under doors. This was surely one of the most memorable nights I’ve spent at Stanford to date. The excitement of those writing the cards and the smiles of people who received them made the evening joyous and unforgettable.
That night and all those notes made me realize how rarely we take an opportunity to share our gratitude with others. Thank-yous should be special because they are meaningful, not because they are rare. And the simplest way of making someone’s day is thanking them. I have a few cards from Thanksgiving and other moments on a shelf that I can see from my desk; they keep me going when Stanford gets a little rough. A thank you can make a day feel worthwhile – Stanford isn’t always easy, but knowing that at least one other person is grateful for something you’ve done can help.
So, from time to time, write or speak a thank you. Thank you for smiling every time you see me, thank you for always answering when I need you, thank you for being my friend, thank you for helping me understand a subject I was struggling with, thank you for teaching me so much about what it means to be caring, thank you for your terrible puns that I pretend I don’t find funny… It takes just a few words to make your day and someone else’s just that much brighter.
Contact Axelle Marcantetti at axellem ‘at’ stanford.edu.