A man attending a seminar on interpersonal relationships became convinced of the need for him to begin showing appreciation to people. His family seemed like an appropriate place to start. So, on his way home, he picked up a dozen long-stem roses and a box of chocolates. This was going to be a real surprise, and he was excited to begin showing his wife how much he appreciated her.

Arriving home, he walked up to the front door with his hands full, rang the doorbell and waited for his wife to answer. Immediately upon seeing him, she began to cry.

“What’s the matter, honey?” asked the confused husband.

“Oh, it’s been a terrible day,” she responded. “First, Tommy tried to flush a stuffed animal down the toilet, then the dishwasher quit working, Sally came home from school sick, and now … now, you come home drunk.”


Maybe this husband had bad timing or he should have shown more appreciation in the past. Or maybe he was suffering from the taking-things-for-granted syndrome. Many of us are comfortable with our lives, and we often fail to appreciate our loved ones, friends, people we work with, our health, and on and on.

Whether spoken by you or to you, two words are among the most meaningful in the language. We teach them to tots learning to talk, to get them in the habit of showing gratitude. We write them when we receive a gift or a special favor. We say them when we remember to, which is often not enough.

“There are two words that, when spoken, have the most unfathomable power to completely change your life,” wrote Rhonda Byrne, author of “The Secret.” “The only thing standing between you, happiness, and the life of your dreams is two words ... THANK YOU!”

William James, psychologist and philosopher, said, “The deepest principle of human nature is a craving to be appreciated.”

Studies by other experts reflect this as well. Psychologists Michael E. McCullough and Robert A. Emmons performed several studies in which participants were asked to practice exercises of “counting their blessings” either on a weekly basis for 10 weeks or on a daily basis for a couple weeks. Participants were asked to record their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms and overall life appraisals. Their research is one reason many people believe appreciation is the most essential and powerful component of well-being.

The cost of praising someone is nil — but a recent study has found that the payoff can be huge. Employees want to be seen as competent, hardworking members of the team. Good managers want satisfied, motivated and productive staff members. What better motivation than thanking employees for their contributions to the company’s success?

Showing appreciation also generates respect and builds relationships. The keys are to be sincere and specific. Whether it’s in person or in writing, it’s always good to praise others in public, which raises morale. Just keep it genuine — going overboard can have the reverse effect.

Little things mean a lot — not true. Little things mean everything.

Mackay’s Moral: “Thank you” is always a welcome message.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.