18 May, 2017

Last night when I got home the guy from my local convenience store phoned me. His name is Mike. He found my number as I had left my wallet at the store (and luckily it contained a business card). The nicest part of this story – at 9pm last night on his way home he dropped my wallet off at my house. Super nice.

I remember back to the evening before, I attended an event. I got a cab home with a professional lady (who held an uber important position as a Mentor & Director) that I’d met earlier in the evening that happened to live just up the road. We shared a cab. When the cab stopped she jumped out hastily, gave a “thanks for that” as she waved goodbye. I can only presume she thought it OK to leave me with the cab charge because she didn’t have any cash on her and didn’t know exactly how to deal with that situation given we had only just met. No big deal… happens to the best of us and I am sure I can cover the cab charge no worries.

But these two insignificant events reminded me exactly why I started Thankly and just how big a problem it solves. For all those little things that people do throughout the year (not just birthdays and Christmas) that we often just think ‘how nice of them!’ (and often do say thanks!) but don’t actually follow up with anything extra. It got me thinking about active thanking and how it changed my own life and the quality of relationships I have with others.

Like most people, the importance of good manners was impressed upon me when I was growing up and central to that was acknowledging the people who were important to me or who had done something for me by saying thank you. I’m not sure much has changed in the parenting stakes. “And what do you say?” is pretty standard fare but I wonder whether, as adults, we sometimes need that little prompt… because we get busy, we get out of practice and we start to just forget the occasions we should follow up on.

According to psychologists it would make a whole lot of us a whole lot happier if we did a little more active thanking. The happiest people are those who maintain positive relationships in their personal and professional lives (that is have real connections with other people), are grateful for who and what they do have, and those that see ‘stress’ as a challenge.

Those people that appreciate what they have and those around them, according to positive psychology, enjoy “a happiness advantage”. That’s because an increase in dopamine, the neuro-transmitting chemical that stimulates the brain’s reward and pleasure centres, makes you happier AND turns on the brain’s learning centres. Your intelligence rises, your creativity rises, your energy levels rise and, according to Shawn Achor (psychologist and CEO of Good Think Inc) you are 37% more productive.

How do you get a happiness advantage?

There are five tried and tested methods according to Achor.

  • Exercise
  • Meditation
  • Practicing ‘everyday gratitude’
  • Journaling
  • Random (but deliberate) acts of kindness

Active thanking is necessary, especially if you’re out of practice. And I promise it will change your life. Not only does it give you a happiness advantage but it also genuinely builds your networks and personal brand advocates out there in the world. It allows you to forge a connection with someone else that might ordinarily be fleeting. And surprise, surprise, people are more willing to do things for you in the future! Take the professional lady above who left me with the cab charge and a short thanks. All I remember of her honestly is her lack of manners and her inability to think I was worthwhile enough to even bother to send an email to say ‘lovely to meet you and hey thanks!’

And it doesn’t stop there- an email isn’t even really good enough. And that’s what I love about Thankly – it solves a real and tangible problem – for $30 cab ditching lady could have sent me a handwritten card and a little clay mask, or tea or coffee scrub or chocolates… just to say ‘hey I loved connecting with you, and really appreciated you grabbing the cab charge’. What would that have done for her future? Maybe nothing. But I can assure you, next time there was a ladies lunch, she needed an introduction to someone or even need her cat looked at, I would have bent over backwards.

So, today I sent Mike from the convenience store a Thankly. He might hate it. He might think it’s weird. But most likely he’ll think ‘hey, what a great surprise to brighten my day, isn’t Dr Kate lovely’. And I bet you next time someone says they need a vet, he’ll send them my way (I should point out that Mike also has two great cats!). The point is you’ll never know when I might need Mike from the convenience store’s help. If you do this over and over every week, every day or how ever often you can manage, what is created is a community (commonly called a tribe) of people that will advocate and support you.

And as the saying goes – find your tribe and love them hard.

If you want to know more about Shawn Achor and positive psychology, watch his TED talk. It’s well worth the 12:20 minutes of your life.

Dr Kate x