As the political machines start churning towards yet another tumultuous election season, the national mood is bound to reflect the ongoing strife that permeates our society. Social media reflects harsh, critical, mean-spirited posts that lack constructive dialogue. We mock and we sneer. We see all people groups targeted for ridicule, with an overarching “people who support this candidate or party are losers” mantra. As a society we point our collective finger at politicians and accuse them of not listening to other party representatives’ thoughts and ideas. We don’t seem to recognize or be willing to acknowledge that these elected officials actually represent us quite well. Is there a way to do this thing called America differently? It’s a fair question.
I can’t put my finger on when it started to happen, but at some point in the past few months I started to hear my husband say, “thank you”. At first it caught me by surprise! Sincere appreciation was not part of our relationship. In fact, if there’s an official opposite approach to appreciation, we’re certified masters of …depreciation? We could lead seminars and make millions if this is a skill people need. But somewhere along the way, and just recently, we’ve started to say those two little words every spouse would love to hear…”thank you”.
My critical mind’s eye is learning new tricks. I blame my husband! My critical nature was easily able to find a whole host of reasons my husband wasn’t living up to my standards. I could see every little thing he didn’t do, didn’t do well, etc. Nobody is as fastidious as I was at fault-finding. Also, I carried a big chip on my shoulder called, “You Don’t Appreciate Me”. Then those two powerful words came along and turned my brain upside down.
It’s hard to be critical of someone who is busy appreciating me. It’s hard to feel self-important, lodging complaints against someone while he’s saying, “thank you”. Critical mind’s eye needed to learn a new trick, and it was happening one precious “thank you” at a time. Soon I started to say thanks. I mean let’s be real… I couldn’t let myself be outdone in this thank you thing!
Husband says, “thank you”. Wife looks startled, surprised. Wife says hesitantly, “you’re…welcome?”
Husband says, “thank you”. Wife looks curious. Wife says carefully, “you’re welcome”.
Husband says, “thank you”. Wife blushes. Wife says sheepishly, “You’re welcome. Thank you for saying thank you.” Mind’s eye says, “I need in on this.”
Mind’s eye looks, notices something, and says, “thank you”. Husband stops in tracks, smiles, and says, “You’re welcome!”
Wife says, “thank you”. Husband stands a little taller, and says, “No problem. I was happy to do it.” And so it was that mind’s eye learned a new trick.
I asked my husband to describe the impact of hearing sincere appreciation. He described how it helps him feel like he is noticed. It feels good to him to hear that I notice the good that he does. It feels good to husband to know that I can see the different ways he contributes to our household, our family, and our relationship.
I shared with him that his thank yous helped me change the way I see our lives. I’ve heard it said it takes 21 days to build a new habit. I’m so thankful to say that a couple months into being a relentless “thanker”, it has become a habit. When I walk in the door after work, I don’t have to try to see goodness. Old Thankless would look to see all that didn’t get done, the dinner that wasn’t made, the dishes in the sink, and on and on. Old Thankless would see all the time husband wasted playing games on his phone. Old Thankless wasn’t very happy. Old Thankless made herself miserable. Rest in peace, Old Thankless.
The habit of being appreciative has sincerely changed the way I view the world around me. It’s as though I saw the world in grainy black and white, but now it’s a world of amazing cinematic color! When I walk through the door I see my husband. I see him. I see him and I love him. And he loves me. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Tips for Sincere Appreciation
- Keep it simple
- Don’t say thanks if you really don’t mean it — people can spot insincerity pretty fast
- Be specific — “Hey, thanks for putting the clothes in the dryer last night. I forgot all about it. I would have been late to work waiting for them to dry.”
- Add special sauce — “I really appreciate they way you check on me when I come home from work. It makes me feel special.”
- Keep the butts out of it — example, “I really appreciate you doing the laundry, but I wish you’d learn to sort the clothes first.” (Yeah, don’t do that.)
- Say thanks early
- Say thanks late — it’s always better late than never
- Say thanks often
- Thank people for saying thanks
Give thanks to those around you freely. Thank people who’ve helped your career. Thank the mail carrier. Thank the wait staff for refilling your water. Thank the person who is bagging your groceries. Thank your daycare provider. Thank your mama and your papa and your sister, too. Thank the Lord for your many blessings. Thank the gentleman who held the door for you. Thank your children when they pick up their clothes and toys. We’re headed into that national negativity that attaches itself to our election cycles. Let’s have some powerful thank yous taking center stage in our own lives.
Together, with our powerful thank yous joining forces in a uniting chorus of appreciation, we can help encourage more acts intentional kindness.
And, might I add, thank you for reading!