How to Say Thank You in a Meaningful Way

“Thankfulness consists of deeds.” Dr. Mustafa Mahmud
There are three manifestations of thankfulness. First, it is a feeling or mental realization. You recognize that something has been provided for them that has made their life a little better. It could be something you earned, like a good report from a teacher, or it could be a random act of kindness, like someone paying for your meal in the drive-thru lane. The “thing” that is provided may seem trivial at first, like a high five of encouragement. But it may carry monumental meaning. That high five could signify support from a friend after running your first marathon or it could be a playful way of celebrating getting your tonsils out.  Whatever the reason, you have to feel thankful first.
If you are at a place in your life where you are just starting to realize all that you have to be thankful for, start with small and simple verbal appreciations. We can feel corny when we mean to be sincere, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel a little awkward at first. And if you’re worried about blushing or crying or looking weak in front of someone, leave the person a note. Or text, email – you get the idea. Just remember, it has to be genuine. 
hdb273aHere are some non-intense, non-threatening ways to start saying “thank you”–
  • text “thanks for feeding the girls last night!” when your daughter has dinner at someone else’s house
  • leave a note  in a co-worker’s mailbox that reads: that cake was awesome, thanks for thinking of it
  • tell yourself – out loud – “thank you for getting yogurt instead of ice cream”
  • walk down the hall with a coworker and tell them you appreciate their ability to look interested in meetings
  • email a friend with some memes/comics about how much moving sucks and then simply write “thanks for joining me in moving hell last weekend”
  • text your dad, “thanks for lunch, same time next week?”
  • next time you get off the phone, say “thanks for catching up”
  • tell your significant other that you appreciate something that you just realized you take for granted, like how they always remember where the car is parked

There’s a next step, a way to take being thankful to the next level. While there is nothing wrong with acknowledging someone with words, actions do speak louder. There are classic ways to show thanks: flowers, a latte in the morning, an Amazon gift card. These are popular because they are effective. A small gift or favor is a great way to show appreciation.

Let’s talk about the really good stuff though, the times when you want to show someone that you really- no, REALLY appreciate what they did for you. They helped you get into college. They cared for you after surgery. They answered the phone every night for six months after your divorce. This person is important to you and the provided significant support. They deserve something more heartfelt than Starbucks.

There are basically two approaches to a grateful deed: do something for them they would never do for themselves, or lessen one of their burdens. Here are some ideas, notice they don’t all involve spending money:

  • They would never do this for themselves, so…
    • find them a vintage (as if there was another kind) record player
    • burn your the new all-in-one collection of Harry Potter dvds for them
    • schedule (and pay for) a massage
    • get them some new wine glasses
    • refinish their grandmother’s rocking chair
    • buy them a Pandora subscription (it is SO cheap)
    • get some indoor plants to keep their place green in the winter
    • throw a cookout in their honor
    • talk them up to your boss
    • give them a manicure
    • sign them up for that scuba class they’ve always been talking about
  • Lessen their burden by…
    • taking out the trash this month
    • getting them a groupon for a maid service
    • babysitting their kids
    • raking their leaves
    • making their copies
    • getting them a blue apron subscription
    • bringing them groceries
    • painting their kitchen
    • sending them some school supplies
    • paying off one of their parking tickets

pc80029_sincere_thanks_cartoon_postcardThis are merely suggestions to get you thinking. Naturally, you need to find what fits the person and what feels right to you. Both parties should feel comfortable with the exchange of gratitude. An insincere thank you is virtually useless. Choose something that you are proud of and make sure you let them know that it’s coming from a sense of gratitude for what they’ve done for you in the past. Otherwise, you are just giving them a gift, and they might want to say thank you, and soon you’ll be in an endless cycle! No grand speech is required, just a simple, “This is to say thanks.”


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