A Thankful Heart

A Thankful Heart

Why is it so much easier to file a complaint than to give a compliment? I’m asking honestly, because I’ve been guilty of this enough times to make me feel, well, guilty.  If someone wrongs us—we (usually) let them know, right? Or if we don’t tell them, we tell their manager. (Or, if you’re a coward like me, you just tell your friends and family.) But what about if someone does something right?

When my girls used to ride the bus to school, if the bus driver was late getting to the stop, several calls were made to the transportation center to inquire about his/her whereabouts. Some callers were kinder than others. I’m not saying that the calls were necessarily unwarranted, but as eager as we were to complain, how many of us remembered to thank the bus driver at Christmas or at the end of the school year for their thankless (no pun intended) job? Confession: I’ve forgotten more times than I’ve remembered.  On one of my good years, I bought a gift card for the bus driver and asked my daughter to write him a short note of thanks. When she came home that afternoon, she told me that her bus driver was completely surprised by her gesture and that he didn’t usually get thank you notes.

How sad.

And the bus drivers aren’t the only people I’ve forgotten to thank. The ladies in the front office of the school that my three girls attended were fantastic—friendly, helpful, kind, hilarious—not every school can boast of a front office staff like that. Every year I planned to bring them breakfast or snacks to thank them for their truly exceptional kindness and service. Every year I ran out of time. In total, my kids were there for six years. SIX chances. (Twelve, if you count Christmas as an opportunity.) I need to post one of those dog-shaming pictures of myself with a sign around my neck “Lacks Organizational Skills.” But, according to my post last month, I need to forgive myself. So, I’ll forgo the sign and do better next time.

Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “I can’t afford to buy the bus driver a gift card. And snacks for the front office? When I win the lottery!” I hear you. I really, really do. A simple note or word of thanks can mean just as much or more. For certain occupations, good reviews or positive feedback  passed on to management can translate to better annual performance evaluations, promotions, or raises. And as much as I love donuts and breakfast kolaches, I love knowing that I’m doing a good job even more. (Although, I would never, ever turn away food offerings!)

Let’s go back to those complaints. What if someone doesn’t deserve thanks? What if their service was truly awful? What if the cashier just offered their very loud, very clueless commentary on your choice of underwear? (True story. Not mine, thankfully.) Some sort of response is in order, but not necessarily as rude and immature as the offense. Always strive to be the adult.

At work they taught us how to give a Compliment Sandwich—a more palatable way to deliver criticism. We spent quite a while learning and practicing the technique, but the short story is this: say something nice, followed by the criticism, followed by another nice comment. It works if you deliver the message with finesse. If you’re not polished with your delivery, you come off as insincere.

Hey, it’s impressive that you feel so comfortable with a complete stranger, but discussing my taste in underwear makes me want to put a bag over my head and run away. You seem like a smart guy, so I’m sure you understand.

Sandwiches don’t always work, but maturity usually does. My friend quietly took the manager aside and explained the situation, suggesting that he talk to the young cashier about appropriate versus inappropriate conversation topics.

My suggestion—buy your underwear online?

But, I digress … one last thought on thankfulness. Miss Manners may disagree, but I think it’s rarely too late to thank someone. Appreciation always feels nice, so be generous with your kind words and gestures, even if they’re overdue.

As for me, I might be bringing breakfast to a certain group of awesome office ladies this Christmas. (I hope they still remember who I am.)

Finally, thank YOU for visiting my website and reading my post. Let me know what you think!

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