I recently offended a dear friend – unintentionally – by thanking her publicly in a way that was inadequate. She was brave to tell me how she felt. And she was right!
I had mentioned her with others who helped me on a huge project. I meant to express heartfelt appreciation, but to her it sounded as if she was just another cog in the wheel. She truly had made a unique and indispensable contribution which my thanks failed to acknowledge.
My friend’s gift of honesty taught me an important lesson. Sometimes it’s not enough to just say “thank you” in a general way. Instead, it’s important to be concrete – to notice and mention specifically what the person did that helped, the effort it took, and what it meant to you and your project.
It terms of strengthening relationships it’s worth the little extra space it may take up in the program or oral acknowledgment. Don’t just list, “Thanks to Mary, Janet, and Howard for the wonderful food.” It’s more powerful to say, “Mary baked four dozen pecan brownies at midnight after a harrowing flight from L.A. Janet searched in three stores, with a three-year-old in tow, to find perfect artichokes for the salad. And Howard hand-made his special mozzarella ravioli from scratch.”
When we take the time to notice and speak the concrete details, our gratitude not only seems more real to the recipient but takes root more deeply in our own hearts.