I recently attended the Nebraska Press Association's convention and, like many conventions there was a featured speaker to kick things off. I had never heard of the guy, but I was told he was pretty good, so I rolled out of bed early on Saturday morning to hear what he had to say.
The speaker for the day was V.J. Smith, a professional speaker and state senator from South Dakota. As he spoke, I remember thinking “This guy is OK.” Then, the more he talked, my opinion went from “OK” to “good” to “outstanding.” The subject of his talk basically boiled down to the power of saying “Thank you” and showing appreciation to people.
It seems like a simple concept, this thank you thing. Most of us were raised to automatically say thanks, almost without thinking. Smith also talked about the power of a thank you note, which is something most of us don’t do enough of.
As I drove back to Blair from the convention in Kearney, I starting thinking about the thank you and how often people actual say it. So, I decided that I’d start paying a little closer attention to when, and if people still say thank you.
So, I began putting notes in my phone after business transactions, and other times and to record what people actually say. As I started keeping track, I became more and more disappointed in what the response was from the various people behind the cash register when I handed them my money.
At first, I kept messing up the survey, because I would find myself always saying thank you to the clerk as they gave me back my change or receipt, which possibly changed their response. So, I had to force myself to not say anything when I got my receipt, and acknowledge the transaction with a silent nod and a smile.
Once I broke my thank you habit, I began to get “There you go,” “There’s your receipt” and the occasional complete silence and blank stare. Now, I’m not saying all these cashiers were rude, some would say “Have a nice day/evening” or “have a good one.” I often shook my head in amazement that apparently no training has been done with any of these people to teach them the power of a simple thank you.
As my unscientific study continued, I also started to notice another pattern. The middle-aged ladies that were working did indeed offer a hearty thank you. They also topped off their thank you with “Have a great day.”
My overall, unscientific study came to the conclusion that it appears to be a generational thing. Young people/students rarely, if ever said thank you. A small percentage would have no response other than to hand me my receipt. In most cases “There you go” or “Here’s your receipt” was substituted for a thank you. Middle-aged people and older, especially women, typically offered a thank you, plus a bonus greeting of some sort such as “Have a nice day.”
When I would hold a door open for someone, most ages, man or woman typically would say thank you.
I was impressed when I walked into my office after the convention to find a thank you note from one of our staff. She had attended the convention and heard the VJ Smith talk, and was motivated enough by his words to thank me for sending her to the convention. That's the first time that’s ever happened that I can recall
Saying thank you more often isn’t going to change the world. But, it could brighten someone’s day, and maybe it can be a pay if forward thing, like paying for the coffee for the car behind you at Scooters.
Now, I’d like to say a big thank you to you for reading this column, and for being a loyal reader of the Enterprise and Pilot-Tribune. And, have a nice day.
Mark Rhoades is publisher of Enterprise Media Group.