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Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Importance of Saying Thank You by Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott

This great post was published in   Uncornered Market.

Measuring the Earth with our feet. Driven by curiosity, guided by Respect.

Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott are the husband-and-wife photography and digital storytelling team behind Uncornered Market. They travel deep and off-beat, aiming to connect the world through people, food and adventure. Five years and 70 Countries later, they are still going ... and still married.

Dan and Audrey

This is about saying thank you: why we do it, the ways we do it, the cheapening of it, the deepening of it. And why, when you're traveling, it's one of the most important words to know in the local language.
Thank you For travelers, it's no wonder those words are among the first our guidebooks suggest we learn. With such a simple expression, satisfaction with affirmed, respect is underscored, roads are paved of goodwill and we are bound to one another just a little bit more than we otherwise might have been.
Thank you in different languages 
We've written more generally of  gratitude  on this site, but in a number of recent circumstances I found myself reflecting a speck more on the oft-underrated  thank you .
Just the other day, I was outside the center of Berlin trying to find an ATM to pay for a camera repair. I walked up to the information desk of a neighborhood supermarket chain focused solely on how best to pronounce my clunky in German: "I'm looking for a cash machine."
The women at the information desk, as confused as they were by me - a misplaced foreigner in an unlikely part of Berlin - were quick to reply once they navigated my accent. They pointed and offered a few directions. I absorbed their response with great focus and walked away.
I did not say  thank you . I was so wrapped up in myself that I forgot to say it. Not a terribly big deal, really. I imagine we've all found ourselves at one time or another so absorbed in the importance of what we've been doing that somehow thank you  gets lost.
That strikes me as unfortunate.

Thank You: Why Do It?

Thank you  holds an unusual position in any transaction. Think about it - by the time you speak it, you probably already have what you came for. A cynic could even say it's water under the bridge.
So why say it?
To acknowledge someone for doing something for you, it's the right thing to do. And while saying thank you does not necessarily open doors, it just may leave them cracked wider for your next transaction.  Thank you  is also a small forward payment: Those in cases where you may never see one another ever again, its echo leaves the door open just a little more for those behind you making the same request.

Thank You: When Do We Say It?

When do we say thank you? "Wow Captain Obvious, you've gone off the deep end," you're probably thinking. Bear with me.
One example occurs when we make a request, explicit or implicit, of someone doing his job. The person delivers and we say, "Thank you." A good example is the information booth above. Also take for instance the waiter refilling your water glass. A top up not requested  per se , but perhaps expected. "Thank you," we say.
Sure it's someone's job, but that does make him any less deserving of gratitude for doing it and for making our lives just a little bit easier? If we do not acknowledge our thanks, I'm thinking we lose a human moment, a human connection - Those tiny little fragments of our humanity.
Handling  thank you  when someone we know gives us something - now that can be tricky.
Sometimes the thing we're given comes in a box. Think gift. We say, "Thank you."
In other cases, we take someone's time or space or their they provide us some resource - material, emotional, or both.
I think of something as straightforward as seemingly a visit back home. Whether we stay with friends or family - and as much as they thank us for taking the time and money to visit them - we thank them for providing their time, their warmth, their home. We might imagine the enjoyment they derive from doing for others and for us, but we genuinely appreciate what they give. (In reality, they have lives too and are being put out - however little - in space, time, and spirit.)
The upshot? Even When they are expected, actions of goodwill ought to be acknowledged with gratitude. It's easy to get caught up in the importance of everyday life and take this for granted, but I suspect it's better if we do not.

Thank You: A How To

There's some gray area, but I suspect we all have a fairly good sense of knowing when we - and what we've done - have been appreciated. It comes from the tone, the body language, the eyes, the handshake, the embrace.
To the perfunctory end of the scale, consider one of those recorded voices thanking us for our call (when we know in truth that they love the business, but dread the call). When  thank you  becomes a thoughtless auto-response, we've begun to lose the narrative of gratitude.
Alternatively, what if we consciously and INTENTIONALLY use  thank you ?
Even if it's for something small, consider telling the person  why  you're thanking him. Maybe it's for the time he's taken, maybe it's for sharing his knowledge, maybe it's because he's extended himself materially and emotionally or maybe it's for who he is. The greater the gratitude, the more specific and heartfelt and it ought to be. (If for some reason you can not voice it, at least give it some thought. Thinking on gratitude feels good - I guarantee it.)

The Traveler's Thank You

On the road, all these lessons are no less relevant. Even if you can not see through the fog of a new culture you are grappling with, even if you can not speak a lick of the language, you can learn those words, deliver them meaningfully and deliver them often.
Thank you: It's so little. It's so big. It's easy - and easy to forget, too.
It all who have given to us, hosted us, shared your world with us and are simply with us (yes, you our readers) - in so many ways, we wish to thank you, again hopefully.
You know who you are. And if you do not, next time it's on us to make sure you do.


About Dan

Dan in Cambodia
Professionally, Dan balances the analytical with the creative and derives pleasure from catalyzing ideas from Seemingly unrelated fields. His prior professional experience is concentrated in management consulting, technology, and large-scale project management. He values ​​integrity, freedom, curiosity, and creativity and believes in trying to maintain a sense of stewardship towards those around us.

Dan took his first trip abroad at the ripe old age of 26th he went to India by himself, located on another planet Earth, and fell terribly ill (dengue fever). He eventually recovered and has struggled with various bouts of the travel bug ever since.

Learn More:View Daniel Noll's profile on LinkedIn and  CV / Resume

About Audrey

Audrey in Turkmenistan
Professionally, Audrey has a natural ability to build rapport in diverse settings and gain trust at all levels of an organization. She has successfully managed projects in over twenty countries - Often remotely - but prefers to be on the ground working directly with the people affected.

Coming from a family tradition in international work that goes back three generations, games, international focus in life is not a surprise to those who know her well. She looks for everyday universal experiences when she travels and aims to make personal connections with people and cultures in varied environments. She has a weakness for dark chocolate and can bake a mean apple crisp.