Posts Tagged ‘thank you’

The Power Thank You

by Mark Goulston on September 11, 2009

thank-you-by-vernhart“Nine-tenths of wisdom is appreciation.”


Clearly, there’s nothing wrong with simply saying “thanks” when someone helps you out. In fact, that’s usually the right thing to do. But if you stop there, your communication is merely transactional (you did something nice for me, so I’ll say something polite to you).

Take Note: It’s polite, however it doesn’t touch the other person or strengthen the relationship between you.

That’s why if you’re deeply grateful to someone who’s done an exceptional favor for you, you need to express that emotion by going beyond the plain words “thank you” and instead offer a Power Thank You™.

When you do this, your words will generate strong feelings of gratitude, respect, and affinity in the other person. Here’s my favorite version of the Power Thank You™.

It was inspired by Heidi Wall, filmmaker and co-founder of the Flash Forward Institute, and it has three parts:

  • Part 1: Thank the person for something specific that he or she did for you. (It can also be something the person refrained from doing that would have hurt you.)

  • Part 2: Acknowledge the effort it took for the person to help you by saying something like: “I know you didn’t have to do _______” or “I know you went out of your way to do_______.”

  • Part 3: Tell the person the difference that his or her act personally made to you.

Here’s an example of the Power Thank You in action.

Donna, a manager, speaking to a subordinate: Larry, do you have a sec?

Larry: Sure. What’s up?

Donna: Nothing. I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for handling the Bennett account so well when I was out of the office for my emergency surgery.

Larry: Hey, no problem. I was glad to help.

Donna: Actually, I’m sure it did create some problems for you. I know you were counting on taking your kids to the soccer semifinals and I heard from your coworkers that instead you spent the whole weekend in the office boning up on the details of the account. I don’t think many people would have rearranged their schedules so willingly—and I doubt that most people could carry off a meeting with Bennett as brilliantly as you did.

Larry: Well, thanks. I was a little worried about it all, but I’m glad we pulled it off.

Donna: Don’t kid yourself. You pulled it off. You made both of us look good, and you made a big score for the whole department. I’m very grateful, and so is the rest of the team.

Donna could have simply said “thanks” in this situation, and that’s what most managers would do. If she had, however, Larry— although he’s an awfully nice guy—would have felt a little cheated.

Why? If a person performs an extraordinary act of kindness or assistance and all you say is “thanks,” you create a mirror neuron receptor gap because emotionally you’re not giving back as much as you received. Saying “thanks” is better than nothing, but it’s not good enough.

Donna’s Power Thank You™, however, made Larry feel totally mirrored. She didn’t just express appreciation; she also acknowledged Larry’s kindness, intelligence, commitment, and willingness to make a sacrifice to help other people. As a result, she strengthened her bond with Larry and gave him even more incentive to come through in tough situations.

Notice, too, that the Power Thank You™ doesn’t just make the other person look good. It also makes you look good to everyone involved by showing that you have empathy and humility and that you care. It also shows that you can be trusted to give credit where it’s due—something that can win you important allies in a corporate world where people too often get burned by disloyalty.

To make this an even more effective approach, offer your Power Thank You™ in a group setting if you can. The larger the audience for your words, the more striking their effect will be.

Now that you know how to deliver a Power Thank You™, learn how to make a Power Apology™ – or give yourself a Jerkectomy™ …

Book Links: Website: Just Listen | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Borders


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Mark Goulston, M.D., is a business psychiatrist who through his early career intervened with suicidal and violent individuals. This eventually led to his training of hostage negotiators for the police and the FBI. From this experience he developed an uncanny ability to get through to virtually anyone, and the methods he used form the basis of Just Listen

Dr. Goulston currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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Image Courtesy: Vernhart on Flickr