During this season of Thanksgiving, I want to express my appreciation to those who understand the power of saying, “Thank you.”
When you say, “Thank you,” you acknowledge to someone that they did something positive that mattered. That might seem like a small thing, but I assure you, it’s huge, and it has a cumulative effect for good.
You acknowledge. YOU, an individual, make an effort to notice and comment. The personal effort itself signals you have interacted with another individual for the split second it takes for this simple transaction: eye contact, a smile, and two syllables.
Think of the difference when this seemingly insignificant interaction is missing. How do you feel when you take the time to hold a door for someone, and they don’t even acknowledge your presence? Or if they look at you dismissively as they go on their way? Neutral at best? Invisible? But when they say, “Thank you,” or just, “Thanks,” you have a totally different feeling about that person.
To someone. You connect. I believe in the power of individual connections, no matter how incidental or inconsequential they seem. It’s the human equivalent of particles colliding in the quantum world in which there are infinite possible consequences from random meetings. That moment when I engage with someone else can have infinite possible consequences. Who knows what my simple, “Thank you,” might mean to that person at that time and how it might change their future actions toward someone else, and on, and on?
That they did something positive that mattered. We all like to know we make a difference, even a small one. We know from both experience and research, that people will repeat the actions that get them recognition and appreciation. We like the feelings that go with knowing we did something others value, even it’s just holding a door open.
Practice saying, “Thank you,” often, and see how it affects the number of times you notice people doing small things deserving of a, “Thank you.”
“Thank you for your extra effort.”
“Thank you for remembering.”
“Thank you for keeping me informed.”
“Thank you for covering for me.”
“Thank you for your commitment.”
“Thank you for asking.”
“Thank you for your attention to detail.”
“Thank you for being honest.”
“Thank you for being kind.”
“Thank you for being on time.”
“Thank you for offering.”
And, “Thank you,” works for all generations, all cultures, and all times.
I’ve learned two other words that make the transaction even more meaningful. When someone says, “Thank you,” to me, I reply, “My pleasure.” It was my pleasure to be of assistance, and it was my pleasure that they noticed.
Maybe I’ve made too much of this simple act, but, “Thank you for taking the time to read this post.”
Practice the power of, “Thank you,” and you will be
Work has gotten a bad rap, and I want to set the record straight. I believe all work is intrinsically creative. Work is personal, and from it we derive satisfaction and identity.
Part of the confusion, I’m convinced, is that we wrongly use the word, “creative, “ as a judgment on what we otherwise mean as the uniqueness or originality of one’s effort. Hear me out.
Work is creative
Work, as I think of it, begins with your will to produce something – an intention. From that intention you move into action and cause something to come forth from the essence of who you are.
Whether you are producing a word, a sentence, an email, a report, a presentation, a spreadsheet, a poem, a novel, a lyric, a screenplay, or a single syllable, you are creating something that comes from the one-and-only you. You produced it. It is yours and yours only. It is your work product – your creation.
For that reason, all work is also personal.
Work is personal.
What you produce comes from within your thoughts, ideas, experiences, hopes, dreams, beliefs, values, likes, dislikes – all that defines who you are.
When you offer something, you are saying, “Here is a part of myself that I am offering to the common good.” In return, you want others to say, “Thank you for your contribution. Thanks for making things better.” The acknowledgement makes work satisfying.
Work is satisfying.
The difference between work (creative) and toil (drudgery) is the attitude with which you approach the task.
One of my first jobs as a teenager was plowing up wheat fields immediately after the spring harvest. It was a hot, dawn-to-dusk, dirty, grueling job. And I made $1.00 an hour for it — $60 a week on a good week. But I still remember how satisfied I felt looking back over a field at the end of the day to see how much I had accomplished. And knowing I was doing an essential work to get that field ready for the next planting-harvest cycle. It was satisfying. I wasn’t merely plowing a field. I was farming.
It’s not so much what you are doing as the way you connect to what you are doing — how you identify with it.
We identify ourselves by our work.
One of the first things we ask about someone when me first meet is what they do. And when we introduce people, we usually include something about their work.
I frequent a local café for breakfast. Sandy often serves me. Last time in I asked how long she had worked there.
“Eleven years at this location. Twelve across town. Twenty-three all together,” she answered through a broad smile with a twinkle in her eyes.
“Wow. You’ve made a career of it,” I replied.
“I’ve loved every day of it, too,” Sandy added. “I’m one of the first people my customers see in the morning. If I can get them off to a good start, maybe they’ll have a good day.”
To Sandy, her work is a creative act that comes from the core of who she is. It is personal. It is satisfying. And it is who she is.
No doubt about it. Sandy, and everyone like her, are
Critics annoy most of us because they usually don’t offer anything helpful we can work with. This is especially true when they are criticizing us personally. But we can change that.
It’s been my experience that the single most helpful thing I could do was adjust my own attitude toward the critic, and therefore, the criticism. Since I couldn’t change the critic, I focused on the content of the criticism. May I suggest . . .
Step 1: Block out any negative attitude you have toward the critic (the messenger) and focus on the content of the criticism (the message).
LISTEN intently. Treat the message as information, not as a personal attack. There might be a kernel of truth in the criticism, regardless of the critic’s motivation, that you can use to improve someway. You don’t want to miss it because you have a defensive shield up.
Step 2: Acknowledge the critic’s comments affirmatively.
They expect you to be defensive and combative. Say something neutral, such as, “Thank you for your opinion (or perspective, or insights, etc).” When you get defensive and argumentative, the critic has the advantage. Gain the advantage by moving to step 3 without any further comment.
Step 3: Improve the quality of information in the criticism.
Critics are often vague and non-specific. Since you were listening, you will probably want more information about the critic’s opinion. Ask for examples to clarify. Hold them accountable for specifics. Find out if the information is first hand with them, or repeated to them from someone else. Gather information to understand the situation as completely as you can. Do not argue or defend.
Step 4: Ask for the critic’s advice or solution.
If they have a solution, listen to it for its merits and perspective. When you listen to others, they will tell you about their beliefs, values, needs, and wants. This is helpful information to understand the critic better. If they don’t have a solution just thank them for sharing their point of view. Tell them you will consider what they said. Do not argue or defend.
Step 5: Own your actions that are being criticized.
Sometimes our actions don’t get the results we wanted. If that’s the case, own it, and move on. Say you hope you can do better next time. Share what you learned from the experience. Accepting responsibility is not the same as accepting blame (more on that in an upcoming post, I promise). I repeat, do not digress into an argument or a defense.
Step 6: Tell the critic you will think about what they told you.
Then go think about it. Your INPowering intent is to seek ways to make things better for yourself and others.
Here’s an interesting by-product: you might slowly convert your critic from being just a critic to a helpful resource of quality information and insights as you train them to be more specific with their information and affirm that you will always ask them for solutions and ideas.
Furthermore, the critic will see you as someone who is
Many underestimate their creativity. Do you? When I present a lab session on thinking approaches, I ask participants how creative they think they are. Few rate themselves above 5 on a 10-point scale.
When I ask, “Why?” most say they are not as creative as someone they know. They mistakenly compare themselves to whomever they hold up as the example of creativity and rate themselves as less.
Let’s debunk the notion that some are creative, and others are not.
Creativity is looking at usual patterns, ways of doing things, ways of thinking about things, and rearranging them in different ways. Sometimes we arrange them in ways no one else has tried. The more “un-usual,” the more creative we regard them. So, people who are more unusual more often are thought of as more creative.
Here is what I have come to believe. Those we credit with being more creative simply give themselves more permission to be more unusual more often.
But many find comfort in conformity because it is less risky. Standing out attracts attention. Attention attracts critics. And critics can be cruel, which is threatening to self-esteem.
Critics delight in telling you why something won’t work before it’s tried, why it can’t work while it’s being implemented, and why it would have worked better if only we had listened to them earlier.
Here’s my advice: don’t get distracted by the critics, and don’t get boxed in by other’s limits, when you are more than you think you are!
One of my first posts was about seeing the world through a different set of eyes. Here’s the link in case you missed it.
Trust me, You are more creative than you give yourself credit for being. But if you want to improve your creative energy, all it takes is a little practice. Here are three simple things you can do today to stretch your creative boundaries.
- Think of three free things you can do this weekend that you have never done, and do one of them.
- Identify someone you do not know very well and invite them to lunch or coffee for the expressed purpose of getting better acquainted.
- Try a different genre of book, movie, music, etc. or a different taste in food. Experiment and experience.
In a recent movie,The Yes Man, the hero, Carl, changed the direction and quality of his life by accepting a challenge to say, “Yes,” to any request no matter how trivial. INPowered people make things better for themselves and others.
When you say, “Yes,” to opportunity,
you unleash your creative energy,
and you become