5I was once pulled over by a police officer as I was driving along a busy road.  When he approached my truck window, he was very stern and gruff.  He explained that he pulled me over for speeding.  As he spoke, I had a million thoughts running through my mind, from “I want to crawl into a hole and die because people are driving by looking at me like a common criminal,”  (or so I perceived) to “Ahhh! Why is this officer so scary?” to “How am going to explain this to my safe-driving-stickler husband?”

When the officer handed me the nausea-inducing slip of paper that was the speeding ticket, the only thing that I could think of to say that made me feel somewhat decent was “Thank you.”  Yes, I gathered myself up enough to quickly realize that any excuse for speeding would be pathetic and that being flippant, defensive, or mad would just make me look like a fool.  So I said “Thank you.”  It was then that the officer looked me with surprise in his eyes and dropped his hard core demeanor. He softened his tone, bid me a gentle goodbye, and went along his way.

I realized that the officer deals with unsavory issues all day long and must encounter a range of emotional individuals through these experiences. “Thank you” was the one thing that I could say to communicate a variety of messages to him: 1) I accept that I did wrong. 2) I respect and am appreciative for his role in correcting me. 3) I would remain calm throughout this interaction and he wouldn’t have to worry about an emotional offender.  This allowed for the conversation to close in a cordial manner.  For me, saying “thank you” was a way to build on my mistake and gracefully move forward.

“Thank you” is a powerful phrase that not only communicates appreciation, but also understanding, compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness, and reverence.  “Thank you” is often the perfect phrase to use in cases when you don’t know what to say.  All you have to do is decide what you are thankful for in that situation, and say so.  Here are five Aha! uses for “thank you”:

  1. When you make a mistake.  This was exemplified in my speeding ticket experience.  Of course, when you make a mistake you must always also say sorry. Use “The Art of the Apology” to craft your next sorry.
  2. To introduce yourself to someone.  Starting a conversation can be nerve wracking.  I’ve found that approaching a stranger with a “thank you” immediately makes them receptive to and feel good about what you have to say.  Again, find something genuine to thank to person for.  If the person said something in a meeting that you thought was notable, thank him and follow up up by introducing yourself.
  3. To precede a reminder.  Whether you may need to remind a co-worker, spouse, or child about a task they need to fulfill, precede the reminder with “thank you.” For example, “Thank you for agreeing to switch shifts with me tomorrow. It means a lot to me because I will be able to attend my son’s award ceremony.” Or, “Thank you again for picking up Lily’s birthday cake on the way home from work today.” Adding “thank you” eliminates the perception of nagging and makes your message enjoyable to receive.
  4. To cheer up someone.  When a friend is feeling blue, let them know what you appreciate about them. It could be anything, such as their friendship, text messages to say hi, or the kind way they treat your children. Everyone likes to be appreciated.  Letting others know that you are grateful for something that they do is sure to lift their spirits.
  5. When addressing a complaint.  You don’t have to agree with a person to thank them.  Just be sure you thank them for something you are truthfully grateful for.  When addressing a complaint, you may choose to thank the individual for sharing their thoughts or pointing out a perspective you never considered.  A simple “thank you” will help to curb the upset of individual making the complaint and communicate that you are taking them seriously and listening intently to their concerns.  “Thank you” has a way of generating respect and mutuality that encourages peace to set the stage for resolution.

As you can see, “thank you” can be used to enhance your everyday interactions in a variety of instances.  What other Aha! ways do you use thank you?  Let us know in the comments section below. Thank you! 😉

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