"Thank you" is used to express gratitude and appreciation. It's commonly used, but I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I don't say "thank you" as often as I should.
After watching an episode of Friends recently, these two seemingly small words struck me with how much weight they can carry. In this episode, Ross finally brings up the courage to say "I love you" to Emily, whom he had a fling with during her visit to New York City. Despite both agreeing this short-lived relationship would just be a vacation fling, he begins to develop feelings for her, and finally confesses as she's about to board her flight back to London. She responds with a pause and "thank you," leaving Ross confused, disappointed, alone, and hurt. Now, I know most of us have never and will never use "thank you" in this context, but it just goes to show the importance of this quick and, too often, dismissible phrase.
"Thank you" is versatile, yet under-used. There are times when we can just reply with a simple thank you, yet we tend to dismiss these opportunities. It is nearly appropropriate in any situation and, often times, is a better response than what we usually come up with.
Take compliments, for example. Let's face it, many of us aren't really good at accepting compliments, either out of shyness, humbleness, or just being plain flattered. Thus, we devalue these compliments by acting overly humble. Internally we hope we don't appear arrogant by doing this. However, when we deflect praise from compliments, we fail to acknowledge the genuinity of the person who voiced it. By replying with a simple "thank you," we can fully accept and appreciate their compliment, in turn, allowing us to enjoy the moment and own the compliment. Take this compliment:
"Your presentation was great!"
Instead of: "Really? I wish I did better, I was so nervous."
Try saying: "Thank you! I'm glad you liked it."
By thanking someone for their compliment, you are able to accept their sincerity, empowering yourself while showing your appreciation. The compliment becomes yours, and you allow yourself to be built up. Simply accept compliments with dignity and enjoy it.
Another similar situation where we deflect ownership is when we're running late. It's always stressful to be the one who's late, but it's also disrespectful towards the person who is left waiting. Instead of saying "Sorry I'm late," try turning it around and thanking them for the trouble you put them through by waiting. Thank them for waiting for you. When we make a mistake, we are putting the responsibility onto someone else and they must sacrifice. In this case, they sacrifice their time. Thank them for their actions despite your mistake.
Another situation where a simple "thank you" will suffice is when we're receiving feedback, and even criticism. Whether it's helpful feedback or irrational criticism, saying thank you shows your acknowledgement allows you to move on. Hear what the other has to say. If it's helpful feedback, use that information to improve. If it's unfair criticism, thanking the other person mitigates the power of what they're saying, subtly dismissing their statement. Some might see this as passive, but when there's criticism involved, meeting anger with anger leads to nothing productive, which is why "thank you" shows your dismissal, to which the criticizer can't respond to. By dissolving the constant need to win an argument shows maturity. Simply move on and live your life instead of being caught up in someone else's anger.
Lastly, when you find yourself in situations where you're not sure if you should thank someone, simply just say "thank you." There is no downside to saying "thank you." There's no harm in showing gratitude, even for something small like when someone opens the door for you. Simply put, say "thank you" more often, it could just make someone's day a bit better. Finally, Thank You for Reading!