Friendships

Making Time to Express Gratitude

How to express your gratitude to friends, family and co-workers—even when you’re feeling overwhelmed or scattered.

Everyone likes a compliment. If a child’s teacher does something a parent doesn’t agree with, parents often shoot off an email or call to complain. How often do you send an email to compliment the teacher or to say thank you for something she has done or said? When your child’s teacher goes out of his way to understand your child or help him feel accepted, make sure you show your gratitude.
Everyone likes a compliment. If a child’s teacher does something a parent doesn’t agree with, parents often shoot off an email or call to complain. How often do you send an email to compliment the teacher or to say thank you for something she has done or said? When your child’s teacher goes out of his way to understand your child or help him feel accepted, make sure you show your gratitude.

Birthday presents. Dinner invitations. That amazing stock tip. The driver on the highway who yielded to let you merge. You know you appreciate all the gifts, favors, and good deeds that come your way. But expressing gratitude can be a challenge for people with ADD (which, I sometimes joke, stands for “acknowledgment-deficiency disorder”).

As one of my clients put it recently, “How can I take time to be grateful when I have so many things to do—and so much is going wrong?”

Here’s my question: How can you not do what you can to acknowledge the generosity of others? Especially, considering all the good things that happen when you do: People feel better about you. Relationships thrive. Life goes smoother—and you feel more optimistic.

Make things easy

A simple “thanks” works when a stranger holds the door for you or returns the scarf you dropped. But what if someone (especially someone close to you) does something truly special? You know you should do something special in return—but what? And how do you get it done when so many other things compete for your attention?

The solution is to send a note. And there’s no need to find “just the right one” for each occasion. Make it easier by buying a bunch of cards—thank you, congratulations, happy birthday, and so on—that are blank inside. As soon as you get back from the store, affix stamps to the envelopes, add your return address, and stash everything in a stationery box. When the need arises, all you have to do is sort through your stockpile for an appropriate card, add a few words, sign it, seal the envelope, and drop it in the mail.

Maybe it seems impersonal to stockpile cards. But isn’t it better to actually put that card in the mail than to spend weeks with “buy card” languishing on your to-do list? The recipients will never know the difference.

When you write a note, don’t skimp on the sentiment (something ADHDers tend to do). “Thanks for having us over” is a good start, but how much better it sounds to wax on a bit: “It always amazes us that you’re able to make everyone feel so welcome in your home. We appreciate the effort you put into the party. The chocolate fountain really blew us away. Thanks again.”

Be creative

If writing isn’t your forté, you have other options for expressing gratitude. Phone your thanks. E-mail a photo (of the party the note recipient threw for you, or of you enjoying the gift he gave you).

What else? Drop off a box of chocolates. Send a gift card for Starbucks, a bookstore, or another favorite indulgence of the recipient. Bake a cookie with thank you written in icing. Or give a handmade coupon redeemable for babysitting services or a backrub.

The point is to show the other person that you truly appreciate him. This is where your energy and creativity can be real assets. Thanks for reading!

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