Despite the British reputation for being overly polite, according to a new study, it seems we aren’t saying ‘thank you’ as often as one might think.
While English speakers were most likely to utter the phrase, with Italians coming in a close second, expressions of gratitude were only recorded in 14.5% of conversation.
But those two simple words hold so much power. A previous study on the impact of saying ‘thank you’ at work found there was a 50% increase in the amount of additional help being offered as a result of showing gratitude.
In light of the latest study, we spoke to four people about the ‘thank yous’ that meant the world to them.
In 2009, Manya von Wachenfelt Seisay was having lunch with her friend Nick who told her his student visa was set to expire the moment he graduated and he was going to have to leave the country. Manya, who lives in Stockholm, was working on a project which involved researching opportunities for students and knew there were places available in the Master’s programme in his field of study. “It was the last day to register,” she recalls. “I told Nick to go there in person and apply.”
The pair lost contact, but eight years later they found each other and met for coffee. “We were catching up on each other’s lives and he looked at me with great emotion and intensity, and said: ‘I’m so glad I found you. I can finally thank you! You have no idea how much you changed my life.’
He told her about all the doors that had opened for him by getting into the Master’s programme. Manya says Nick became a world-renowned specialist in his field - working at prestigious institutions, speaking at Congress and travelling the world.
“I sat there, speechless at how it had all come together,” she says. “If I hadn’t been working on that project at that particular time, I wouldn’t have known about the opportunity and made a simple suggestion. It meant a lot to me that someone appreciated the good I had brought to their life.”
Georgina Fuller’s mum Maggie was an English teacher who kept every single card and letter she had received from her students over the years. When her mum died 13 years ago, Georgina kept the box of cards.
“I can’t bring myself to throw it away,” she says. “They meant so much to her and she said it made everything worthwhile.”
To Georgina, the cards show how much her mother was loved and appreciated. “She didn’t just make a difference to me as my mother, she made a difference to all of the people she taught. The fact that she may be remembered by them is a great source of comfort to me.”
Rebecca Chivers received a “beautiful” thank you card from a neighbour moving out of the area. Rebecca and her family had befriended the young woman, who was in her twenties. “There were times when we had to knock on her door as she had left her keys in the front door (overnight) or in her car door outside her house,” she says.
On moving day the neighbour bought gifts for Rebecca, her husband and their two children. “The card she gave me was just lovely,” says Rebecca. “She wrote that she was sad to leave as we had been so kind to her and looked out for her and she felt safe with us around as she knew we would be there if she needed us. She wrote that I had gained another daughter which was also very sweet. We are still in contact now.”
Kim Palmer says a friend recently called her just to say ‘thanks’. “That was it. No other agenda,” Kim recalls. “[It] is the best feeling in the world to have someone go out of their way to thank me - especially as I know how super busy she is.”
Kim believes saying thank you is not only great for the recipient, but also the sender. “When you say thanks you feel great too – in a way it’s a nice little bit of self-care but in a selfless kinda way,” she says. “I’ve just finished writing up a bunch of thank you cards to all the people who sent us lovely gifts for when Kingsley [my son] was born and I feel amazing saying thanks to everyone.”
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