Two Words That Change Your World

And why to use them more: Radical Gratitude, day sixteen

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Pardon me as I point out the obvious . . .

But as I’m focusing on gratitude during this month of Thanksgiving, there is a teensy, common, two-word phrase that has the power to change an attitude, an interchange, or a relationship.

When you think about it, it’s our moment-to-moment experiences that compose our sense of the world. Those experiences are largely determined by the aforementioned three things: attitude, interchange, relationship. So words that can steer any or all of them in a positive direction conceal great power in just two syllables.

The magic words: thank you.

Like I said, the two words are obvious. The magic lies in how and when you use them. If your momentary experience is subpar, it may be that you aren’t using them as much as you think you are. More likely, sometimes you’re employing them out of polite habit rather than sincere feeling. It makes a difference.

The power of a thank you, sincerely and thoughtfully expressed, is transformative. You don’t need me to tell you this; it’s happened to you. But if you’re anything like me, sometimes it’s the big-difference-making little things that I don’t pay enough attention to.

There are times when I’m at the check-out counter, busy and preoccupied with getting to the next errand on my list. By the time I’ve finally gotten my debit card cleared (why can’t those machines all work the same way??) and collected my stuff, I mumble a perfunctory “thanks” in the salesclerk’s general direction as I haul my bags out the door.

Other times I remember my personal rule: when someone is helping you, look them in the eye. Say thank you and mean it. When I do that, the result may be fleeting but it’s unfailingly positive: an instant of human contact, an upwelling, however brief, of warm regard between two fellow passengers on Planet Earth.

And often it means better service, especially if I’m a regular customer.

The first scenario is a lost opportunity; the second, a brightening of my day and someone else’s. It requires zero time and minuscule effort; all it really takes is paying attention.

Other forms of thank you require a little more effort. But they have a big payoff.

Anne Chisom, an eminently worthwhile Medium author, has written more than one story in which she calls out the importance of handwritten notes that express appreciation to loved ones, friends, colleagues, and as she makes clear in her piece published in Better Marketing, clients.

Here’s the takeaway: the cards she sends all contain handwritten, personal notes that specifically express why she is thankful for that particular client. Does that take time and work? Yes.

That’s why everybody doesn’t do it. But that’s exactly why you might want to consider it, or some version of it. There is no replacement for a real, three-dimensional card you’ve taken the trouble to write and address. I made a practice of doing this when I was a fundraiser, and I still do it as a board member of a local nonprofit. It deepens connections and grows relationships.

This doesn’t have to be reserved for holidays or extraordinary actions. If you manage a staff, sincerely expressed thank you notes now and again can do wonders for your team’s performance and morale.

In a funk? Find someone to thank for something.

I am so not kidding about this. If you’re feeling grumpy, disgruntled (is anyone ever gruntled?)or just meh, go out of your way to say thank you to somebody for something. Your mailman, perhaps, for not creasing your magazines. Your neighbor for giving you room to back your car out of your driveway when he puts his trash cans at the curb. The lady who walks her dog down your block every morning, for remembering to pick up Fido’s deposits.

The rule is, you have to mean it. It works best if it’s not someone you usually talk to a lot because the “going out of your way” element has a lot to do with the mood-elevating effect of this exercise. The person might be taken aback for a moment, but they are 99.9% likely to give you a warm response.

Trust me on this; you’ll feel better. And so will the other person, who might just pay it forward by thanking someone else. Bit by bit, your two little words spread like ripples in a pond, elevating the experience of who knows how many people. That’s how you change the world, a little teeny, vital bit.

Kind of marvelous, isn’t it, what we can do just by saying thank you?

Check out my other posts this November as I explore radical gratitude, in a challenge to find the miraculous hidden in the everyday. If you feel inspired to join me, by all means, write on!

Written by

Writer & educator. The Startup, Writing Cooperative, P.S. I Love You, The Ascent, more. Award-winning short fiction. Visit me at

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