How to Give Thanks to the People Around You
Debra L. Bruce, JD, PCC.
“Karyn, thank you for working so steadily from the time you arrive at our office to when you leave. Your dedication demonstrates that I can trust you to play fairly with me. Trust is important to me, and it is a relief and a time-saver not to have any concerns about your attitude.” That’s a message I want to convey to my assistant in this month dedicated to expressing gratitude. I know she’ll receive this message, because she’ll publish this blog post for me. I’m hoping she’ll relish having the world (or at least this corner of it) know something that I appreciate about her.
I’ve written previously that studies have found various ways that expressing gratitude can enrich your life and increase your enjoyment of your law practice. I wrote about the value of acknowledging a job well done, which is a form of expressing gratitude, and how to give an effective acknowledgment. I’ve also written about the importance of demonstrating your appreciation to referral sources. Are you starting to get the message that I think having an “attitude of gratitude” is important?
Recently I came across some interesting writings about how to express gratitude by Marshall Rosenberg, the author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Rosenberg suggests that an expression of appreciation should have three elements:
- The action that has contributed to your well-being;
- The particular need of yours that has been fulfilled; and
- The pleasurable feeling engendered by the fulfillment of that need.
Your appreciation doesn’t have to be expressed in that sequence, and you can mix the elements together a bit, as I did above. It doesn’t have to be perfect. When you convey that kind of information, however, your message will ring with sincerity. As Rosenberg points out, you’ll give your recipients the gift of knowing how they enhance the quality of your life. At our core, we all want to know that we matter because we make valuable contributions to the world around us.
Rosenberg says many of us have difficulty receiving appreciation graciously. He advocates writing down some gratitude toward ourselves for things we have done that enriched our own lives or the lives of others. I think that by giving to ourselves, such a practice can also make it easier for us to give sincere appreciation to others.
In the 1980’s when I started practicing law, the legal world was more collegial. Clients seemed to trust and appreciate their lawyers more, too. On a number of occasions I received a gift of appreciation from a client at the close of a matter (in addition to prompt payment of the bill). Perhaps you can restore a little of that collegial atmosphere to your practice by incorporating Rosenberg’s tips into your relationships, even with opposing counsel. One of the most disarming comments I have heard from others begins with, “That’s what I appreciate about you.”
I challenge you to use this month dedicated to gratitude to experiment with expressing it to clients, co-workers and employees about them, and with regard to life in general. If Rosenberg’s tips don’t resonate with you, choose another way that feels right to you. Write a note. Leave a voicemail. Say it face to face over lunch. Just do it. I am certain that positive differences in your law practice will emerge if expressing appreciation becomes a habit. If you take up this challenge, I invite you to share your experience with me in the comments.