Give ‘Thank You’ and ‘I Know’ a Rest

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Feb 7, 2018

I did a piece a while back on how “thank you” can wear out its welcome in the workplace, and come off as insincere if overused. The law of diminishing returns says that the longer you rely on something for results, the weaker its impact will become. People, it turns out, get tired of the same old thing after a while.

So here’s an idea: Next time you have an opportunity to thank someone, try saying “I appreciate you” instead. I’ve been trying it out, and the responses you get from people are generally more real, personal, and heartfelt than a typical “thank you” would elicit.

People like feeling valuable and appreciated, and saying “thank you,” while nice, is actually one level removed from that. Why not cut to the heart of the matter – “I value your opinions,” “I’m thankful for you,” “I appreciate you”? People hear “thank you” every day. What they don’t hear often is real sincerity.

“I know”

Another thing about the way we talk in the workplace. A lot of times, if I’m in a hurry, and someone is telling me something I think I already know, I will say “I know” to speed them along. I’ve discovered that I don’t like that anymore either. When I apply the Golden Rule, I think I wouldn’t want someone to cut me off when I was trying to share info.

So to curb the trend I’ve started saying “That’s what I was thinking” or “Excellent point” or “We’re on the same wavelength” instead, and it’s like the difference between night and day. I don’t know more than my employees; I am on their team. If I am not the one really advocating and demonstrating that idea, it will never catch on. I am the leader. I have to make choices about how my workplace operates. This is one of them.

Giving feedback

Okay, one more trick I wanted to share – If you must say something negative, balance it with something positive. I give a lot of feedback on my team’s work. Sometimes, not for lack of trying, a piece just doesn’t come together and it takes some elbow grease. If I have to tear something up, I make sure to write down a few sincerely positive things to mention along with it. Things like “Thanks for putting up with all these edits,” “We’re almost there and you’re doing excellent work” or I’ll mention some changes that I really liked before going into the heavy stuff.

Balance is important when it comes to feedback. In a lot of ways people become what they hear, and if they hear nothing but mistakes they start to believe they are prone to them, or that their work is sub-standard. It’s a simple matter of mitigating this line of thought with positivity and support.

Talk less

Talk may be cheap, but language is a beautiful, priceless thing, and when used artfully it can bridge many gaps between people. It’s all in what you’re saying – are you just a lot of talk, or are you earnestly trying to find the right words? Thinking about how you use language on a daily basis and constantly working to improve it is key to keeping a fresh approach to frontline engagement.