I write emails for a living. Although many people pine to make themselves appear to be important and prestigious, I acknowledge that all I really do all day is write emails. I’m not ashamed; I craft emails of extraordinary quality and quantity. In fact, I have penned thousands of communiqués covering topics ranging from the weird to the wonderful, from the quaint to the corporate. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.
When I share brief anecdotes and insights gleaned from my work, friends and colleagues alike implore me to share my perspectives broadly. So it is upon their advice that I share this reflection from inside a Corporate Word Machine.
“Say goodnight, Gracie.”
One of the greatest lines ever to be spoken on television was all-at-once a throwaway and a chapter title in the book about America’s greatest personalities. And it wasn’t straight man George’s directive that delivered the punch. It was the reliable, warm, forthright refrain delivered as only Gracie could: “Goodnight!”
Gracie transformed the tritest of words to the wittiest of signoffs by delivering it with the fullness of her Gracie-ness. Gracie was brilliant and dizzy—the alchemist of linguistic relativity; Gracie meant what she said.
What’s the lesson for John Q. Business? Say thank you. And deliver it with the height of your you-ness. Be like Gracie: mean what you say.
As a writer in the business of business, there is no phrase I dip my quill into more liberally than “thank you.” In fact, it doesn’t matter what I’m responding to or what the message is that I intend to convey, I start with gratitude.
Thank you for your time, your trust, your consideration, your commitment, your kindness, your service, your leadership, your support, your candor, your collaboration, your patience, your sense of urgency. Thank you for attending the event, supporting the community, going the extra mile, exceeding expectations, working hard, setting an example, developing others, leading with purpose. Thank you.
Gratitude is a low-risk proposition. It doesn’t imply concurrence, discordance, concomitance, conjecture, judgment, or opinion; gratitude gently nods and smiles and doesn’t smell up the barn. But the real value of gratitude-first writing isn’t risk mitigation, it’s this: the greater a trail of gratitude you leave along your path, the greater a path you get to travel. That is, if you are genuine.
Not only do I write, I read, which is perhaps more powerful than writing. Business writing is, in my view, overwhelmingly I-centric and you-anemic. In word and spirit, it’s often hungry and demanding—even the thank-yous. Consider the idea that words of gratitude are either genuine or dishonest filler. And if filler, then manipulative in nature. It’s not the words I recommend, it’s the spirit of gratitude that these words carry. Feel the gratitude, then express the gratitude.
Say thank you, reader. And mean it with the fullness of your you-ness.