Stephanie Denman: The Thank You Boomerang

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Stephanie Denman says a simple compliment or "thank you for what you do" can fulfill the need we all have to be appreciated by others.

I used to make fun of my grandpa for writing me “thank you notes for my thank you letters.” It seemed sappy at the time, but I was recently reminded of how meaningful and lasting it is to be thanked.

My parents were emptying their storage unit and asked me to claim the boxes that I’d left with them almost 30 years ago before moving to Europe. I brought them home, opened one of the time capsules, and started sifting through old prom portraits, postcards from my travels, an autographed photo from Mark Harmon, 1986’s “Sexiest Man Alive," and faded black and white newspaper clippings from my high school plays.

Buried amidst my paper memories was a file of commendation letters I received as a flight attendant in the late 1980s. Reading the passenger thanks still made me feel good all these years later. It felt special knowing that people took the time to write and express their appreciation. When someone says “thank you” it’s as if they see you even for a few minutes before life hustles on.

Philosopher William James said, “After basic needs are met, is the need to be appreciated.” Handwritten letters are rare these days, but even a quick email thanks for a job well done, or for getting in touch makes a difference. Thank yous can take other forms, like a wave when a driver allows you into their lane, a nod when someone stops to let you cross in the crosswalk and of course a smile for essential workers, caregivers and family. And giving thanks is a “twofer." Harvard Health writes that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. So, thanking and being thanked makes you happy. Give a shout out to the universe when you wake up each morning and set a positive tone for your day. It’s tough and toxic out there. Let’s challenge ourselves to make thanks-giving a daily ritual. Thank you for listening. And thank you grandpa, wherever you are for thanking me for my thank you. I get it now.


With a Perspective, I’m Stephanie Denman.

Stephanie Denman is a communications consultant living in the East Bay with her husband and two teens.