Putting the “You” in “Thank You”

Putting the “You” in “Thank You”

Having established that displaying gratitude is critically important in a marriage (and, for that matter, in life and in our relationship with HaShem) the question arises:  How can you best express your gratitude?

At first, the question seems silly.  After all, what is the difference between different statements of gratitude?  We know some can be more effusive or more eloquent than others, but it can’t be that alone.  Certainly, not every spouse is expected to be Cyrano de Bergerac, filled with eloquence and wit.  We might have thought that there is no difference between a spouse who says: “wow, that dinner was great!” and “wow, I know you really worked hard to make that dinner great. Thank you.”  On a surface level, both statements seem to be expressing appreciation for what the cooking spouse did.

We might ask the same questions about our prayers. Why do we have to use certain words?  Why not just pour out our hearts?  Why does language matter?  The very fact that there are fixed prayers should sensitize us to the fact that, while the contents of our hearts does matter, the form of our words matters as well.

Research shows there is a preferred way to thank you. It’s easy to remember.  The very words “thank you”, make it clear we are showing gratitude to the person we are talking to.  There is a “you”, the other person, in thank you. “Mentioning benefits to yourself and praising your partner’s actions are both positive expressions…But our research shows that mentioning benefits to yourself is not as important-it can be there or not-as praising your partner’s actions.”[1]

Of course, your spouse is happy that you liked what they did for you.  However, “benefactors did not have more positive feelings after hearing the grateful person elaborate on how much they loved the gift-or see the grateful partner as being more responsive-it simply didn’t matter.  However, when grateful people called out the praiseworthiness of their partner’s actions, their partners perceived them as being more responsive and were in a better mood.”

So, feel free to gush about how much you loved the present or the dinner. But save your real passion for thanking your spouse for what they did. You can say: “that was a great meal or gift.”  You must say: “I really appreciate how much effort you put into finding me the right gift or “how long you must have slaved to make that amazing dinner.”  

Simply put:  the “you” in “thank you” is the person being thanked, not the person doing the thanking.  

[1] Algoe, Sarah, How to Say Thank-You to Your Partner in smith, newman, Marsh, Keltner, The Gratitude Project (New Harbinger Publications, Oakland California, 2020) 113  

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