The Lost Art of Saying Thank You

7 times to use thank you from James Clear

Tom Handy
Tom Handy
Oct 29, 2020 · 4 min read
Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

told my son he needs to write a thank you letter to coaches sending him football letters to a camp. He put up a fight but if you’re a parent, you know the parent eventually wins. In general, I think some people forget to send thank you notes.

After spending time in the military, you’re taught customs and courtesies. After the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, I think some military traditions were disappearing as well. One thing I learned early on was to thank people either in person or with a thank you card.

There is a need for common courtesies in general. I do my best to instill that in my kids. After speaking to my son’s Assistant Principal a little over a year ago, he said my son was well mannered and spoke to him respectfully. Hearing that from another adult is a good feeling as a parent.

Saying thank you is a common courtesy people need to have in their vocabulary. These two words can be used in a lot of situations today. This phrase can help strengthen a bond in every day relationships.

I don’t say “Thank You” as often as I should and I doubt I’m the only one.

James Clear

Author and entrepreneur James Clear wrote about the seven times a person should say thank you.

1. Say “Thank you” when receiving a compliment.

James said people ruin compliments and try to act macho instead of thanking the other person. When you deflect a compliment you internally don’t acknowledge that someone had something nice to say.

Example: “Your dress looks great.”

  • Instead of: “Oh, this old thing? I’ve had it for years.”
  • Try saying: “Thank you. I’m glad you like it.”

2. Say “Thank you” when you’re running late.

When you’re late for a meeting or an appointment, it is the worst feeling. You’re under stress to make the appointment and then you also disrespect the person waiting. What you should do is acknowledge the person instead.

Example: You walk in the door 14 minutes late.

  • Instead of: “So sorry I’m late. Traffic was insane out there.”
  • Try saying: “Thank you for your patience.”

3. Say “Thank you” when you’re comforting someone.

When someone tells you bad news, what do you say next? It’s an uncomfortable feeling and sometimes you’re at a loss for words. What you should do is be present and let them know that you heard what they said.

Example: Your brother lost his job.

  • Instead of: “At least you have your health.”
  • Try saying: “Thank you for sharing this with me. I’m here to support you.”

4. Say “Thank you” when you’re receiving helpful feedback.

When you receive feedback, many people take it the wrong way. In your mind, you may be grumbling that the person doesn’t know what they’re talking about. In reality, they are only helping you get better.

Example: “This work isn’t good enough. I thought you would do better.”

  • Instead of: “You don’t understand. Here’s what really happened.”
  • Try saying: “Thank you for expecting more of me.”

5. Say “Thank you” when you’re receiving criticism.

Criticism always comes off the wrong way and you think the person has no heart. The best approach is to thank them anyway.

When you thank a person for their comment, you weaken what they said. You might actually throw them off guard when you do this.

Example: “This might be good advice for beginners, but anyone who knows what they are doing will find this useless.”

  • Instead of: “Well, clearly, I wrote this for beginners. This might be a surprise, but not everything was written with you in mind.”
  • Try saying: “Thank you for sharing your opinion. I’ll try to improve next time.”

6. Say “Thank you” when someone gives you unsolicited advice.

This happens often when you are at the gym and someone gives you a tip on your workout. The same situation also occurs as a writer receiving advice from other writers or publishers.

Example: “You know, you should really keep your hips back when you do that exercise.”

  • Instead of: “Oh really? Do you have a video of yourself doing it so I can see it done correctly?”
  • Try saying: “Thank you for the help.”

7. Say “Thank you” when you’re not sure if you should thank someone.

When someone does something for you, the best thing to do is to say thank you. Something inside of you is telling you to say thank you. So just follow up and say thank you. There is no harm in saying this.

  • “Should I send a Thank You card in this situation?” Yes, you should.
  • “Should I tip him?” If you don’t, at least say thank you.

Do you say thank you enough?

See these other articles for more tips.

Tom Handy is a top writer on Medium, former Quora writer, and father of two kids. He retired from the Army and sits on several non-profit boards. You can find him on Twitter @tomhandy1 and his publication Life is Like a Game.


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Tom Handy

Written by

Tom Handy

An investor writing his thoughts online. 7 million views on Quora. Editor of Life is Like a Game.


Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Tom Handy

Written by

Tom Handy

An investor writing his thoughts online. 7 million views on Quora. Editor of Life is Like a Game.


Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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