This week Americans will be celebrating Thanksgiving. The holiday’s origins go back to the 1600s with the arrival of the Pilgrims on the continent. However, it wasn’t until Abraham Lincoln that Americans formally acknowledged the last Thursday in November as the day of celebration.
Franklin D. Roosevelt altered the date in 1939, when there were five Thursdays in November. FDR declared the fourth Thursday to be the official day and the Senate ratified his decision in 1942, officially making the fourth Thursday Thanksgiving in the United States.
While we have an official day of thanks, we should be thankful every day, and multiple times each day, because there’s much to be grateful for.
If Viktor Frankl could find reason to give thanks while imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps, then we can all find reasons to be thankful each day. Unfortunately, it’s human nature to take things for granted so it’s not until something is missing that we appreciate it more.
Don’t Do This
Speaking of being thankful, here’s an example of the wrong way to go about it. Many years ago, a colleague needed help with something. What was asked not only required my time but the time of several others as well. It forced us to put things on hold for other people but nonetheless we “stopped the presses” and accommodated the request.
My associate got what was needed then went about their business the next day. What stood out to me was this – the individual never thanked us. I remember thinking, “I don’t work for thanks. I get paid well to do my job,” but I also knew in my heart I wouldn’t extend myself for that person again and I certainly wouldn’t ask others to do so.
I don’t think I’m different from most people in this regard. When I go out of my way to help someone – even when paid – if I don’t get some acknowledgment of appreciation, I know I won’t try as hard the next time. Contrast that with people who offer genuine thanks and appreciation. I bet you would go above and beyond for those people.
Reciprocity in Action
Giving thanks is a form of reciprocity, the principle of influence tells us people feel obligated to give back to those who first give to them. According to the French social psychologist Marcel Mauss, every human society teaches its people the way of reciprocity. We see this as we raise our children because one of the first things we teach them to say is, “Thank you,” after someone has done something for them.
Because we’re all brought up in the way of reciprocity most people are somewhat offended when the individual they helped doesn’t take a moment to say thanks. Beyond offense, people are less willing to help thankless people as time goes by. It’s a natural human response.
Why Thankfulness Matters
When you express sincere appreciation people are more likely to help you in the future. Think about this; you help someone, they express gratitude, and you feel good about the action you took. You’re naturally more inclined to repeat behaviors in the future that make you feel good. And don’t forget, the person you helped is more likely to help others too by “paying it forward.”
As we approach the day that commemorates giving thanks, pause to reflect and see if you’re someone who regularly gives thanks when someone does something for you. If you don’t, or don’t as regularly as you should, make a commitment to start. I think you’ll be amazed at how people respond to you. and you’ll be thankful you changed your ways.
I hope you and your loved ones have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, Brian helps clients apply influence in everyday situations to boost results.
As one of only a dozen Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in the world, Brian was personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.
Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by Book Authority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His latest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable designed to teach you how to apply influence concepts at home and the office.
Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 500,000 people around the world!