Those of us with busy lives and big ambitions often fail to pause and appreciate our impact. Ain’t nobody got time for that. We’re already moving on the next thing.
Caught up in a rush towards the Next Big Thing, we often ignore our successes, overlook our impact, and even dismiss gratitude offered in our direction. In doing so, we also dismiss the people expressing it.
And by “we”, of course I mean “me”.
The other day somebody said thank you to me in a really heartfelt way. He said I had inspired him, that I was helping him embrace his truest self, that he loves that I swear because it’s real (which kinda made me giggle), and that though we had spoken only a handful of times I had made a big impact on his life.
I would like to say I accepted his gratitude with grace.
I did not.
Instead what I did was cut him off at the knees. As he tried to express his thanks I interrupted, minimized, deflected, and dismissed it with the wave of a hand. “It was nothing, really.”
I do this with alarming regularity, and it’s a total dick move. It’s dismissive and rude. But I only recently realized why I do this, why I shrug off and block out a lot of the thanks directed my way, and why I did it again that day: I was ungracious because I was uncomfortable.
The truth is, I’m a total mushball. Someone says something like what that man said to me and I get a lump in my throat and my face gets all hot. I’m afraid I’ll burst into tears, so I go the other way. I shut it down.
It actually takes a lot of guts to try and articulate what something or someone means to you. You have to kind of psych yourself up to express your thanks and get it right. (Or is it just me?)
I was at an event a while back where I got to meet author Cheryl Strayed and have her sign a book. Her books, Wild, and Dear Sugar, broke me open in a zillion ways and I got butterflies just thinking about the opportunity to tell her. I didn’t want to sound like a bumbling idiot when I finally got to say thanks. She was calm and gracious and wonderful, despite having a long line of people waiting to tell her the same thing.
It feels like a gift when someone actually receives your offering of thanks, when they listen and say, “Wow. You’re so welcome.”
I want to do that. I want to develop the grace to land somewhere between a bawling puddle and outright rejection when someone says thank you.
So when someone says thank you I’m going to shut up and listen. I’m going to accept the thanks, let it land, say, “You’re so welcome”, and really mean it.
And on days when I can’t do that I’m going to at least try very hard to not dismiss someone’s thanks with the wave of a hand and say, “It’s nothing”.
Because it’s not nothing.
The other day I let a thank-you in. A woman I had done some business coaching with gave me a big hug at our very last session together, and she told me I had changed her life.
Oh wow, I thought, Changing someone’s life. That’s a powerful and loving thing. I didn’t cry, and I didn’t dismiss her. I felt her thanks and I accepted it, with grace, even.
Not too shabby, right? I’m gonna try and keep this up. I hope you’ll join me.