Something out of the ordinary happens when dining out with my friend Bill. “Thanks for coming in today,” he’ll say to the server when they approach our table. They’ll give him a puzzled look and often reply, “Excuse me?”

He’ll repeat, “Thanks for coming in; for coming to work. I’m glad you’re here.”  At this point they either think he’s crazy, annoying, or the nicest guy they’ve seen all day. He’ll get his food, enjoy the meal, chat with them and at the end, thank them again for their service to him. In nearly all instances, they end their encounter with Bill happier than when they first met.

Taking a cue from Bill, very early one Sunday I approached the TSA agent at the Memphis airport, handed him my ID, scanned my boarding pass and said, “Thanks for getting up early and coming to work today so that I could fly safely home.”  He gave me the same puzzled look the servers give Bill, then smiled and said “You’re welcome. No one has ever said that to me before. I appreciate it.”  My response? “Well, I appreciate you.”

So why, you might wonder, express appreciation to someone for just doing their job? Why thank them for showing up – even before they’ve done anything to earn your gratitude? Here are a five reasons:

  • They might not hear it from anyone else. Ever. Including from their boss or co-workers. Yes, it’s their job. And yes, it’s what they’re paid to do. But for so many people, they spend more time at work than with their families. Sometimes it’s nice to have someone acknowledge that.
  • It tells them that what they do has value. If it didn’t why should they even bother showing up? Try offering a little appreciation to someone and see how they respond. It may change not only how they engage with you, but how they engage with everyone else they encounter that day.
  • It is motivating. It’s good to know that your contributions count. When someone sees you, and acknowledges that what you do is important, it can motivate you to do that job even better.
  • It’s not only good for them, but for you! In their article “10 Reasons You Need to Show Appreciation Daily,” David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom say that when you appreciate others, your mindset changes, your mood improves and you engage at a higher level, among other things.
  • It doesn’t cost you a thing, unless you’re counting the less than 60 seconds it takes to say it. And think of the ROI! A few words of appreciation from you could make someone feel like a million bucks!

In the last several years, I’ve noticed that more people are likely to complain than appreciate. Take a listen the next time you’re at a restaurant, waiting to board a flight, or watching your child’s soccer match. Do you hear complaints about the food, the weather delays, or the referees? Or do you hear expressions of appreciation for those who fix and serve the food, work to get you safely home in the face of situations beyond their control, or teach fair play to children who are learning a game? There is certainly a time and a place for expressing displeasure, but perhaps we might want to consider tipping the balance to the side of appreciation and see what happens.

So, let it start with me. First to my friend Bill. Thanks for showing me the value of appreciating the people that we encounter throughout our day – whether we know them or not. I appreciate and value your friendship and example.

And next, to you, for reading this blog and all other Wednesdays for Women blogs before it. We are approaching the one-year anniversary of the series; its popularity has exceeded my expectations. I appreciate the women who allowed us to tell their stories and to the men and women who contributed thought-provoking points of view. But most of all, thank you to everyone who has read or shared one of the blogs along the way. Please know that you, your readership and support are appreciated!