We are used to writing thank-you notes when someone gives us a gift or does something kind for us. Today, though, I want to talk about the power of writing a thank-you note when it may be the last thing that you want to do. This is a strategy I’ve used with clients and for myself, in both professional and personal situations. It has the power to produce profound insights and critical shifts in your mindset.
It might seem counterintuitive, but writing a thank-you note to a person who drives you crazy can be one of the most freeing things you can do. When someone pushes our buttons, irritates or offends us and we know he isn’t going to change, we can fall into a cycle of frustration. Maybe you don’t like his values or how he treats people or even his approach to work.
But challenge yourself to think about what you have gained from being around him. In some way, this aggravating person has probably shed more light on who you want to be. His actions may inflame you because they bump up against one or more of your deeply held values. If your constantly critical boss is getting on your nerves, perhaps that signifies how much you value appreciation. Your thank-you note might read. “Thank you, John, for reminding me how important it is to give positive feedback and recognize individual contributions.”
Or, if you’re troubled by a selfish colleague, you might write: “Thank you for helping me notice that each of us is motivated by something different, and I need to keep that in mind.”
The key is to look for the positive in what feels like a relentlessly difficult situation. Perhaps your co-worker’s frequent outbursts have caused you to more proactively manage your own work stress, or your boss’s lack of professionalism has kept you in check when you were tempted to engage in similar behavior.
Remember that you don’t have to actually give your thank-you note to the recipient, and you don’t even have to keep to it yourself (although it can become a valuable reference if you do). But do take the time to write your thoughts down on paper. Seeing your words in black and white will help you more quickly uncover what’s bothering you, identify the lessons in the situation at hand, and move on to a more positive place.
This week, take ten minutes to write a thank-you note to someone you find challenging to be around. You may be surprised at how much there is to be grateful for in a frustrating relationship or situation. And remember, small steps can lead to big results.
© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.