It’s ironic that the more we connect, the less we connect. We have built a technological juggernaut of interwoven personal network connections yet have lost some of the basic skills required to make these relationships meaningful. It’s the analog of knowing how to slam dunk a basketball but forgetting how to dribble.
I’m very thankful that I grew up in an era where the majority of our relationships were face-to-face. It taught me how to dribble. If I made someone feel bad, their facial expressions gave it away. When I did something nice for them, they said thank you. Our face and body were our emoticons – they were immediate and they were not optional. If I forgot to say thank you, it was noticed.
There are two simple things I learned in my interpersonal formative years that have stayed with me and served me well in this era of slam-dunk filled communications – the power of a person’s name and the importance of an effective thank you. I use both of them often to help demonstrate how important others are to me.
Your name is an incredibly powerful magnet. Chances are good that if you heard your middle name while growing up, it’s because you did something wrong and your mother was on the war-path. “Joseph John, you get over here right this minute.” My mom knew she had my attention when she used my middle name. It still sends shivers up my spine.
First names are incredibly powerful in our daily conversations and more importantly in our email. If you want to connect with someone, make it personal. Use their name. Instead of replying to an email with, “I really liked what you did,” try, “I really like what you did, Tim.” That simple inclusion makes all the difference in the world. (By the way, make sure his name is Tim.) You would be amazed how much of our communication has become depersonalized. This makes it even more special when you do the unusual and include their name.
Go back through some old emails and look for places where you congratulated someone or recognized their effort. Did you use their name anywhere or did you assume since the To: field had their name on it, that was enough? Try finding a place where you could insert their name. See the difference? Pretend that email was coming to you. Would inserting your name make you feel differently? After many years of experience practicing this, I can assure you that it absolutely does.
Developing a meaningful thank you is the second simple thing you can do to connect with others. Despite the fact that I don’t see thank you being used nearly enough, I’m going to assume that we all know how important it is to do so.
Thank you comes in two different forms The first is an acknowledgement of completion. Someone did something, I say thank you. It’s almost like completing a conversation with a handshake.
The second type are the ones where we can all improve. These responses are in recognition of a meaningful effort. One of your team members, Jill, just delivered a fantastic presentation to the executive team. Your team has been under fire for not delivering on the corporate quality objectives. Jill’s presentation proved that you were not only meeting your objectives, but exceeding them. Normally you might simply say, “Thank you.” Now you’ve learned to say, “Thank you, Jill.” But, that is still not enough. “Thank you, Jill,” is the equivalent of Arthur Hoggett saying, “That’ll do, pig.” in the movie Babe.
If you want to make a Thank You more meaningful, consider this three step approach I learned several years ago.
- Be Specific – While you may be thankful for the whole effort, find something more specific and tangible that you can cite as the reason you are thankful. Citing a specific part means you took the time to discern all of the elements and found the one that was most meaningful. Think of it like a homemade gift versus a gift card. It’s the time spent thinking about the other person’s effort that matters most.
- Acknowledge Their Sacrifice – In order to accomplish great things, sacrifices usually have to be made. Do you know what sacrifice they made? If you don’t know their sacrifice then you are not paying attention. If you do know the sacrifice, mention it.
- Tell What It Means To You – If you are thankful, you must have a reason. Tell them how their efforts will benefit you or something you value. This is especially effective if the person is part of your team.
“That was an outstanding presentation, Jill. I loved the graph you created on the correlation of defects to the times when the cafeteria served fish. I am sorry that the cafeteria ladies aren’t going to allow you eat there any longer. That was a big sacrifice to make. Your presentation today will allow me to regain all of the time I lose every week defending our quality and reinvest it into growing our team’s skills. Thank you.”
Jill now has a cause and effect relationship that makes her work meaningful. Isn’t that what we all seek in this world, to be meaningful? It is amazing how a few sentences can accomplish that.
Oscar Wilde said, “”Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.“” If you want to be that first person, make your relationships meaningful by making them personal. Simple things like using their name and thanking them in a meaningful way are effective ways to begin that journey.