Grace in Gratitude

I’ve had a moral dilemma as of late. I have an agency customer that consistently violates one of our core values — The “No Asshole” Rule. Whilst we consistently aim to create value, give more than we get, and make art by work that is elegant and attractive this client never, ever, says Thank You. Such random acts of kindness aren’t kidney donations but they are things that are out of scope, and done with free will. Things we could invoice for but we don’t. Extra mile stuff. Whilst we aren’t expecting a bouquet of roses for delivering a five hundred word awesome article when they pay for two hundred and fifty and the writer just wanted to deliver value to the reader, or paying attention to prevent online reputation damage by skimming their social media profiles after hours when we’re off the clock, bad news is breaking and the community manager is drunk at the pub and handling a detractor, they fail to recognise or express any gratitude.

They pay our bill, but never ever will utter the two words that my team are gagging to hear. And this is frustrating as the spiritual leader in my business, the founder and accountable for the corporate culture. If it is flawed, its my fault. Pondering this client and whether to recommend they take their awesome business elsewhere, I’ve observed a wider trend.

This is not an isolated incident. The golden phrase is on the verge of extinction and I think I want to create a campaign to save it. It’s worth it.

My son recently spent the night with a school friend and this made me reflect on my own “No Asshole” policy. I have instilled in impeccable manners through repetition but also by example. Nothing makes me feel I have succeeded as a parent then when another parent gives me positive feedback about how he behaves when I am not around and weilding an invisible chancleta. When he pipes up with a “Thank You for doing so many nice things for me Mum” out of the blue and not lobbying me for ice cream, I melt. All the uniform ironing, eggs and bacon brekkies on school mornings and trips to EB Games for a browse are suddenly worth it. Such genuine and spontaneous outpourings of gratitude are beautiful moments. They make the recipient feel validated and acknowledge. Gratitude builds confidence. It also fosters good will. So, why is this a dying practice?

After the sleep over, I sent a small gift in the snail mail to the parents. I wrote a note of thanks and sent a box of high-end luxury stationery (indeed Thank You notes) to say how much I appreciated them looking after my son. After a month, a text to say “Thanks for the gift, it arrived!” never came. As boys share everything in the 4th grade, I am aware the gift made it to their letterbox. I found that lack of gratitude disenchanting.

But Assholes are everywhere. I love the DMs I get on Twitter by very HIGHLY followed social media “experts” asking me to RT their links, or comment on their blogs. When I do, do you think they bother to say Thanks, or volunteer a reciprocal share? NOPE. I love folks I have never met who ask me to introduce them to one of my contacts on LinkedIn, yet fail to establish way they can create value and when I reply to offer to help once equipped with more information, never say thanks. When someone gives us feedback, positive or negative, do we express and acknowledge this with sincere gratitude.

Could it be that we’re afraid to express or acknowledge others because we fear it makes us less powerful, or vulnerable? I shopped this notion over drinks with a powerful English female colleague and she said herself that expressing emotions (positive or neutral) were sometimes challenging even if she felt it. She couldn’t get the words past her lips or down on paper. I ponder if the aforementioned client would feel I would be empowered at the negotiation table if I knew they appreciated us.

The short answer: NO.

We’re overthinking one of the first phrases we learned as a child. Love begets love. Gratitude creates a cycle of positive flow. If you aren’t pushing it out, don’t expect it back. People remember more about how you made them feel than what you said or in this instance, don’t. Gratitude isn’t in the writing or saying of the words, it is in the spirit of the exchange and this is where this shifts from words to feelings.

I asked my colleague how exactly those around her know how she feels if she doesn’t express it. Opening oneself to the cycle of gratitude does make you slightly vulnerable, but risk vs reward, its minimal. Telling someone you think they do great work, or that you’re grateful they held the door open for you will not get you punched in the face or the recipient of an AVO — restraining order (for those outside Australia). You may not get a hug or smile back, but you’ve created an instance of positivity that brings about great things whether from the person your give the magic phrase to responds or shrugs. When you open yourself, even just slightly, you create a crack for the sun to come through. She said she misses the proverbial sun.

The solution centric part of my brain (the former complaints department) started working on changing the pattern to create a different energy, not just in this instance, but overall. I’m a doer, not just a thinker. Each month I pick five people I know, work with or connect with on social channels. I take the time to write them a handwritten note and thank them for something that has enriched my journey, or compliment them on something they have done that I think is awesome. No strings, offers, tripwires or any of that crap. Just love. And as much as I admire Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab theory, this is not even a jab, its a caress. I also send emails, send a Tweet, or a private message on WhatApp depending on where and how I am connected.

Sometimes I get an email with a cynical surprise as the note contains no sales pitch or segue and that is rare for something that is received in the mail that is not attached to a commercial incentive and it isn’t Christmas. I believe the word is “unexpected”. I get emotion words like “touched”. I love that I can positively disrupt. Its pure. And frankly, its addictive.

One industry colleague overseas told me when they saw my note on their desk, they thought it was the most elegant invoice they’d ever been sent and someone really went to great lengths to get paid. This made me laugh, and think.

I doubt that I’d get a million signatures for the “Save Thank You” campaign on Change although I think it is one of the simplest and most powerful words we can utter and if more people expressed gratitude, the world would be a better place. There would be fewer Assholes to fire. But Assholes also serve to teach and remind us. I’m juxtiposed as whilst they frustrate me, they reinforce my core values and remind me to align my social posture with my ethics. Don’t say. Do.

Thank you’s take time. They take thought. They are a give instead of a take. The weak perceive that this giving means they are lessened — that power has sifted to disadvantage instead of feeling empowered and leading with grace.
Is our EQ being lessened with the heightening of our IQ?
If this post has made you ponder what side of Graceland you live on I won’t apologise. I will, in advance, thank you for your comments, shares and rebukes.
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