Tag Archive for: Thanksgiving

Why Thankfulness Matters

This week people across America will be celebrating Thanksgiving. While this holiday has its origins going back to the 1600s with the Pilgrims it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln that we formally acknowledged the last Thursday in November as the day of celebration. Franklin D. Roosevelt altered that in 1939 when there were five Thursdays in November. FDR declared the fourth Thursday to be the official day and the Senate ratified his decision in 1942, officially making the fourth Thursday Thanksgiving in the United States.

The truth is we should be thankful every day and multiple times each day because there’s so much to be grateful for. If

Viktor Frankl could find reason to give thanks while held prisoner in Nazi concentration camps then we can all find reasons to be thankful each day. Unfortunately it’s human nature to take things for granted so it’s not until something is missing that we appreciate it more. That’s the principle of scarcity in action.

Speaking of being thankful, here’s an example of the wrong way to go about it. Many years ago a colleague needed help with something. What was asked not only required my time but the time of several others as well. It forced us to put things on hold for other people but nonetheless we “stopped the presses” and accommodated the request. This person got what they needed and went about their business the next day. What stood out to me was this – never did they thank us in person, by phone, or in writing. I remember thinking, “I don’t work for thanks. I get paid well to do my job,” but I also knew in my heart I wouldn’t extend myself for that person again and I certainly wouldn’t ask others to do so.

I don’t think I’m different than the average person in this regard. When I go out of my way to help someone – even when paid – if I don’t get some acknowledgment of appreciation I know I won’t try as hard the next time. Contrast that with people who offer genuine thanks and appreciation. I bet most of you would go above and beyond for such people.

Giving thanks is a form of reciprocity. This principle of influence tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them. According to the French social psychologist Marcel Mauss, every human society teaches its people the way of reciprocity. We see this as we raise our children because one of the first things we teach them to say is, “Thank you,” when someone has done something for them.

Because we’re all brought up in the way of reciprocity most people are somewhat offended when the person they helped cannot take a moment to say thanks. Beyond offense, people are less willing to help thankless people as time goes by. It’s a natural human response.

Here’s why thankfulness matters. When you do express sincere appreciation people are more likely to help you – and others – in the future. Think about it; you help someone, they express gratitude, and you feel good about the action you took. You’re naturally more likely to repeat behaviors in the future that made you feel good about yourself. And the person you helped is more likely to help others too. That’s called “paying it forward.”

As we approach the day that commemorates giving thanks pause to reflect and see if you’re someone who regularly gives thanks when someone does something for you. If you don’t, or don’t as regularly as you should, make a commitment to start. I think you’ll be amazed at how people respond to you and you’ll be thankful you changed your ways.


Correct Ways to Respond to “Thanks!”

I thought it only fitting to share some ideas about the right ways to respond to “Thanks,” seeing as this week Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving.

A theme I repeat during the Principles of Persuasion workshop is this – small changes can make big differences. How you respond to “thank you” seems like a small thing but it can make a big difference to the other person.

During keynotes Dr. Robert Cialdini often shares a story about an Australian businessman who attended one of his conferences. Dr. Cialdini noticed the man visibly changed as he spoke. When they had an opportunity to talk the man shared a story.

He said he owned a software business located in Sydney and his largest client was in Melbourne, a distance of roughly 700 miles. This important client had a software problem so the business owner took his top two technicians and accompanied them on the trip. The good news was, they solved the problem rather quickly.

The IT director profusely thanked the man, noting how he, as the owner of the company, took time out of his busy schedule to make the trip along with his top two people. She said it was above and beyond her expectations. What the man did next sealed his fate because he never got any more business from this very important client!

Perhaps a little embarrassed by all the praise he said, “It was no big deal. We love to come to Melbourne. The nightlife is great as are the restaurants. Don’t think anything of it.”

Do you notice what he did? She felt his approach was above and beyond the call of duty. It made her feel special and he basically said, “You’re not special. We would do this for anyone to have the chance to come to Melbourne.”

Pay attention to how people respond to you when you thank them. I bet you get one of these responses at least 90% of the time:

  • “No problem.”
  • “No big deal.”
  • “Just doing my job.”
  • “I would have done it for anyone.”
  • Or worst of all, silence.

Strike each of these responses from your vocabulary! None of those does anything to engage the other person and make them feel special. It doesn’t matter how much effort it took you; what matters is what it meant to the other person.

I have a friend I used to reach out to for lunch every month. One day he thanked me and, not knowing anything about persuasion at the time, I replied, “It’s not that I’m such a nice guy; I’m just really good with my computer.” You see, I had set up a recurring task to remind me to call him at the beginning of each month. It was effortless for me BUT it meant a lot to him. I was fortunate he was a long-time friend because he responded graciously. I never forgot that exchange because was an “ah ha” moment for me about how to respond to “Thanks.”

How could I have responded to my friend? I should have said something like this; “Your friendship means a lot to me so I’m happy to reach out to you each month. I appreciate you making room in your schedule to get together consistently.”

How could the Sydney software executive have responded? Any of the following would have been better than his actual response:

  • “You’re one of our most important clients so I was happy to do this for you.”
  • “That’s what long-term partners do for one another. Thank you for trusting us.”
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with us. We appreciate you and your business.”

And how will you response next time someone thanks you?

  • “It would have killed an ordinary person but I was glad to risk it for you.” (People like humor)
  • “That’s part of the great service you can expect when you deal with me.”
  • “I was happy to do it. I appreciate you (or your business).”

So let’s wrap this up with a final thought. Thanksgiving is this week so let that day be a reminder for you as to how you should respond to “Thank you!” Use those opportunities to engage people in ways that make them feel special and even better about dealing with you. That added satisfaction will keep them coming back and increase the odds that they’ll share your fame with their friends and business associates.

Brian Ahearn, CMCT®
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

A Thanksgiving Message to People I’m Thankful For

In a few days most Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving. There will be turkey, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and lots more food to go along with a day of family and football. It’s the day we pause to give thanks for all the blessings in our lives. Rather than write a regular article I want to take this time to give thanks to many people who’ve been a blessing to me. That’s the principle of liking at work! I encourage you to click on some names and perhaps send a Facebook friend request, follow someone on Twitter or connect with them on LinkedIn because they’re all good, supportive, helpful people. That’s a big reason for my thanks! It’s not that they’re just good to me; I think it’s their nature so here’s a chance to hook up with really good folks if you want to expand your social network. I have to start with my wife Jane and our daughter Abigail. If you follow me on Facebook or have read this blog for any length of time then you know they’re fodder for much of what I write. They’re always great sports about it and they give as good as they get. You should take a look at some of our exchanges because they can be quite funny. When it comes to this blog I’d like to start by saying thanks to Sean Patrick, Marco Germani, Yago de Marta and Hoh Kim. These guys continue to help my readers get a worldwide perspective on influence and persuasion. To see what they have to say tune in on the first Monday of each month for the Influencers from Around the World series. Here are some other people who’ve been very helpful with this blog. George Black got me going on this blog simply because he encouraged me. Next is Mike Figliuolo who’s been a great resource for all my blogging questions. On several occasions I’ve written guest posts for Mike’s blog, thoughtLEADERS, and he’s returned the favor writing some posts for me. Then there’s Michael Franzese who’s provided some very cool drawings for Influence PEOPLE and designed my logo. To see more of his work and read some of his thoughts check out FranzeseInklings. There are lots of Twitter friends who retweet my stuff consistently: James Sims, Marcy Depew, Matt Fox, Maureen Metcalf, Anthony Iannarino, Paul Hebert, Aaron Schaub, Steve Miller, Warren Davies, Jon Wortman, Jim Canterucci, Justin Bryant, Stella Collins, Eldon Edwards, and James Seay. To follow any of them on Twitter just click on their name. Special thanks also need to go to several coworkers. First there’s Debbie Conkel who’s proofread my work for more than 15 years now. She takes her own personal time to read through every blog post for me. Next is my boss John Petrucci. I could not work for a better leader and friend. Imagine the most supportive boss you can then multiply it many times over. And then there’s Nancy Edwards, someone I look to for mentoring. It doesn’t matter if we’re face to face, on the phone or communicating by email; Nancy encourages me every time we interact. When it comes to getting stuff done on the influence side, Chris Cibbarelli is my point person at Dr. Robert Cialdini’s office, Influence At Work. No matter what I need, no matter how quickly, Chris is always there for me. To say she’s a joy to work with would not be a strong enough statement. Finally, I want to say thanks to all of you reading this today. Readership has now reached nearly 150 countries! That’s not something I expected in my wildest dreams when I started blogging. The best gift I could give you to show my appreciation would be to help you find the kinds of online relationships I’ve found. That’s why I hope you will take time to click on some names, start some conversations and make some connections. I know you’ll be glad you did. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Brian, CMCT
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.