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On the power of saying "Thank you"

I find the holidays, if not managed carefully, can lead me to feeling farther away from people, rather than closer. This is ironic, because my culture sets up often unrealistic expectations for this time of year - 'tis the season to be jolly, etc. To counter this I'm trying to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, and let it show through my actions.

Here's an example that left me feeling great: While waiting on the phone with Canon support regarding a printer [1] that's malfunctioning, I found my initial attitude was not a Really Useful one [2] - I was expecting long delays, accusations of misusing the printer, etc. Having recognized this I tried to keep it in check when I was connected (quickly!) to a very helpful man who reassured me that they would take care of me. The interesting point came when he put me on hold to get his supervisor's permission to send me a replacement print head - a costly item.

I felt tremendously grateful, and spontaneously offered to write the supervisor a thank you letter for my guy's work. He was extremely grateful, gave me an email address to use instead (even easier!), and told me almost no one he helps does this [3]. He then went back to the supervisor to arrange for me to get a new printer instead of just the part. I hung up very satisfied. Because the email took less than two minutes to write [4], I sent it off immediately after hanging up, giving me a nice sense of closure.

Too often I get bogged down with the details of life, and forget to appreciate the important things - food, clothing, and shelter; the wonderful and loving people I know; the deep respect of someone truly listening; the profound gift of a caring teacher [5]; and the natural beauty around me. So a hearty end-of-year thank you! to my readers, and to the myriad people involved in making this interdependent world function. I am deeply grateful.

  • [1] The printer is a PIXMA iP3000, which is great for general printing, pictures, and Hipster PDAs. See diyplanner.com for printable GTD-compatible templates.
  • [2] The concept of a Really Useful Attitude comes from the book How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less by Nicholas Boothman, which I reviewed here.
  • [3]In his free e-book 100 ways to help you succeed/make money, Tom Peters offers:
    The rarest of gifts: THANK YOU!

    Alas, it (a nod of appreciation, a hastily penned, 2-line T-note) is so rare. (And thence ... ever so powerful!)


    1. Make it "permanent" - send a note.
    2. HANDWRITTEN notes beat emails!!!!!!!
    3. This applies equally at age 18 in a "powerless" job, as well as at age 48 as Honcho.
    4. Do this especially when you "don't have time" - at the end of a stressful day.
    5. Make it a "formal" habit- do it at the end of the day, say, every 2 or 3 days.
    6. If you can't think of anything or anyone to say "Thank you" to - I suggest you go see a shrink.

  • [4] For a summary of GTD, including the 2-minute Rule, see the Wikipedia entry on GTD.
  • [5]In How Do You Say "Thank You"?, Bert Webb talks about the challenge of rewarding teachers, who are very underpaid, but hold (in my opinion) very important jobs. His suggestions to show appreciation include thank you cards, recognition programs (e.g., Teacher of the week), letters of commendation, and others.

Reader Comments (11)

Hi Matt --

In the spirit of your article, thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's been fun reading your ideas and reflecting on them as I've attempted to move into the world of GTD. I enjoy the balance of practicality and philosophical pontification that you bring to the party. Above all, I like the focus on generally being a Good Person (tm). I hope you enjoy your holidays!


December 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDon

Thanks for the kind comment, Don.

December 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Thank you for a great post and a great blog. Happy New Year.

December 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterPascal Venier

Thanks very much for reading my blog, and for your kind wishes, Pascal. Happy holidays to you!

December 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Hi Matt!

Great to see you are still working hard and moving forward with things.

The concept of what you are talking about (in business terms) is called "referral marketing." It's based not on a transactional relationship, but a relational one.
A friend of mine, Denise Kotula in Los Angeles started a blog on such a thing-- you can bet TONS of great, well written advise there. It may help in your networking and your campaigns to "stay in touch:"


I also posted an article (and interview) with Denise on my blog- OrganizingLA. You can check it out the interview here:



-- John

January 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Trosko

Thanks a bunch for the poitners, John. I've added Denise's blog to my reader, and I'll research "referral networking." I also liked your interview; well worth reading! I'll pass it on.

January 22, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Thanks for sharing! That's a great thing you did for the supervisor, you definitely made his day :)

February 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlvin

Hi Alvin - it was actually totally natural. It's funny, as I continue working to implement the principles of "Never eat alone" into my life - esp. thinking of what can I do for the other person - I find myself noticing more opportunities to share authentic compliments, even little ones. "How Full Is Your Bucket?" has been helpful (no pun intended) in this regard as well.

February 8, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Thanks very much, Mary Beth. Good resources to know about.

September 25, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Cornell

Being thankful is indeed important. It helps us realize the blessings we currently have in our lives, as well as appreciate the people we love and the experiences we go through. This sentiment is classic and transcends boundaries, time and culture. It is indeed very powerful and has the ability to sustain relationships and give success.

P.S. Check out www.makemorelivemoregivemore.com to help you appreciate life and live more this year.

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTeresa

Well said!

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermatthewcornell

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