It’s a Start

I would like to change the world for the better someday.  How eventually I’ll do it I’m still not sure.  While I was listening to a lecture online the other day (on taxation, which really isn’t all that pertinent in making the world a better place) the professor implored students to start a change in the world, and to start being example-setters at the grassroots level.  His opinion that resonated with me was that today’s world is entirely too complex, fast-paced and cynical as a result of which people are not stopping to appreciate the little things.  He talked about one method that he uses, that seems very simple, but may have a profound effect on people in your world and has the potential the turn into a pay-it-forward kind of concept.

A thank-you note is his method.  One thank-you note to someone in your world once a week.  Whether it be a co-worker, family member or friend his method is to make an appointment with yourself once a week, sit down and write a note to someone.  For example, he said that easy notes are to thank people who invited you to their home, or on someone’s birthday.  The notes that he says are the hardest to write, but resonate the most with the receiver are the ones he has written to people for no reason at all except to say thank you for being a special person in his world.

I’m not sure how I would react if I got a note from someone in my life telling me that I was a special person and was appreciated.  Rarely (at least that I’m aware of) do people share their feelings in this world, and positive sentiments like this are rarely shared.  I think that it is assumed that these feelings are there, but (as I have been told by my wife) people like to hear them once in a while.

I carried out a version of this method in cards to my groomsmen and ushers last year at my wedding.  I put a lot of thought and sentiment into the cards that I wrote to the guys in my wedding party, as well as my parents.  I thanked each of them for being a part of my wedding and let them know that I was glad they were in my life.  Overall, I think that the cards were very well accepted and it felt good writing them.  Besides my brother and parents, the people I had included in my wedding had been my friends for over half my life.  Guys being guys, we generally didn’t talk about stuff like that, but to put it in the open felt good.

I know I have spent more time writing letters of complaint to anonymous companies explaining why I was dissatisfied with their product than I have spent telling people who are important to me that I am glad they are in my life.  I think that this reaction is similar in most people’s lives – to acknowledge the negative things that happen to you, but not take the time to thank people who have made your world better.

So, this is my start in attempting to make the world better.  It’s not big at all, and may only impact the very few people in my life that I interact with.  I’m going to preface this by saying that I am a total introvert – in a crowd of people I basically disappear, meaning doing something like this is definitely outside of my comfort zone, but I’m willing to give it a try.  Following what this lecturer says though – imagine if everyone did this?  Wouldn’t your world be a little better?

I’m wondering – do any of you do anything like this?  Is this a weird idea?  How would you react to getting a thank-you note like this from a friend or acquaintance?

3 thoughts on “It’s a Start”

  1. When I was working, I was on a departmental task force called “Teamwork and Morale.” One of our recommendations, though informal, was to acknowledge positive, everyday tasks which were done well to encourage continued good work (not personal interactions, necessarily)

    While I can’t say I have done this all the time, I have gone out of my way to acknowledge good service in my everyday dealings. With email and comments forms in company websites, this is pretty easy.

    I feel it is important for managers to know they have employees who go out of their way to perform good service so they can (a) make sure they do their best to retain them, and (b) use their acts of good service as examples to other employees to look up to.

  2. @ deegee – I agree – this kind of informal recognition would be very welcome in most workplaces.

    @ Middleway – I think a lot of people mis-understand the impact of a sincere thank-you.

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