Courtesies of a small and trivial character are the ones which strike deepest in the grateful and appreciating heart.
On the first day of his first term in Congress, Henry Clay was elected Speaker of the House. He was that kind of guy. He’d be reelected to the House and Speakership five more times. In the process he transformed the role from that of parliamentarian into the powerful position we recognize today. Clay didn’t arrive at the House completely unprepared. He had already served in the Senate twice. He’d return to that body for another two terms after spending four years as Secretary of State. Henry Clay was undisputedly a politician in every sense of the word. He understood the rules of the game and he knew how to wield power. But foremost, Clay understood people. He knew how to broker a compromise and mediate a dispute. He was a consensus builder—at least as long as the consensus was around a position he favored. He was called both, The Dictator and, The Great Pacificator in one long breath by friend and foe alike.
Whatever his failings, Clay was long on charisma. He knew how to engage people and to make them feel as if they were the only ones who mattered. Even his enemies found him strangely irresistible. Senator John C. Calhoun, a political rival, is purported to have said, “I don’t like Clay. He is a bad man, an imposter, a creator of wicked schemes. I wouldn’t speak to him, but, by God, I love him.” It seems Clay intuitively knew that everyone craves some measure of recognition. Everyone, no matter what their age or station in life, wants to be appreciated—wants their contribution acknowledged. Some need it more than others, but everyone accepts it with an appreciating heart.
The simple act of expressing appreciation is one of the most powerful tools available to each one of us. The expression requires no special training, no additional costs and no unique ability. It’s environmentally friendly and has no negative side effects. In fact, saying thanks is one of the few things we can do that always produces a positive effect. Too bad, then, that so many folks are strangers to the practice. Certainly, one of the most common complaints in the workplace is that people feel unappreciated. Common experience is that mistakes bring swift retribution while good, steady effort goes largely unnoticed. The problem isn’t confined to the office either. Look at any unhappy marriage or soured relationship and you’ll find that one or both parties feel neglected. The consequences of this can be severe and the emotional cost alone of taking someone for granted is phenomenal.
The good news is that this is an easy problem to fix. It takes a bit of thought, a little sincerity and the iron will to force the words, “thank you,” to otherwise pursed lips. Why not take some time today to really notice what the folks around you are doing? You’ll find that there’s a lot of thoughtfulness being shown, some top notch work going on and even a few heroic saves. Don’t let any of it pass without notice. Let someone know you appreciate them. Recognize someone for a job well done. Thank someone for a small kindness. You’ll feel good, they’ll feel great and your world will be a little bit better for it (actually, it might be a whole lot better!).
And by the way, thanks for reading! —Ebert