Don’t Want to Thank People; Thank Them

My wife took a pretty bad spill the other day while walking the dog. Thankfully, her doctors, nurses, and surgeon were better than Humpty Dumpty’s and she’s on the mend. But this blog isn’t about her, her broken wrist, or life with a partner who’s out of commission. It’s about wanting to thank our neighbor who helped her out after she had fallen and couldn’t get up.

More specifically, it’s about actually thanking our neighbor.

Dan (that’s our neighbor) called the paramedics, called me, and — I’m pretty sure — was late for work as a result of tending to my fallen spouse. I suspect that presented with the same circumstances he’d do the same again. But, it’s nice to know that people still go out of their way to help others.

As I finished the dog’s walk that morning before leaving to meet my wife at the hospital, I passed Dan’s house and I began mentally composing a thank you card.

Karen and I want to thank you …”

I stopped this line of thought and scolded myself: “Don’t want to thank Dan; thank Dan.”

Wanting to thank Dan is the type of passive writing that weakens our ability to communicate with each other. I tend to do it most frequently when I’m rushing and on autopilot. Frankly, it happens more than I care to admit (and I’m certain more than I notice) in casual work correspondence.

The real problem is that it introduces an unintended air of insincerity to what is meant as genuine gratitude.

While sitting at at the hospital with my wife, I re-composed the thank you card to Dan.

Karen and I deeply appreciate your help and expertise this morning …

The change in language made my sentiments heartfelt and the expression of appreciation concrete. By using active language, I communicated to Dan precisely what I was thankful for:

  1. His assistance;
  2. His expertise; and
  3. The sacrifice he made by arriving to work later than intended.

Even if most readers can’t identify the difference between the passive card and the active one, they will experience the difference in the way they feel about the sincere expression you’ve shared with them.

To quote the great writer Maya Angelou:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”