Why Little Things Like Thank You are Important in Relationships

Why Little Things Like Thank You are Important in Relationships

PHIL: I know a couple where the wife was ill for an extended period and her husband took care of her. During that time, he remained happy to help because she would always say “Thank you.”

It is just a small thing, yet a collection of small things like holding the door open or leaving the last of the chocolates adds up to an understanding of how much we are seen and appreciated by the other person.

The reverse holds, too. John Gottman studied couples discussing a stressful topic, and from a 15-minute video, he could accurately guess who would be divorced in 5 years. He looked at eye-rolls, dismissive remarks, snide comments, interruptions. These small negative signals added up to a broad statement about how the other person was seen.

In both these cases, the little gestures can be overlooked, yet taken together, they say a great deal.

We are not in control of how the other person behaves, but what we can do is look at how we respond to other people. Do we say thank you, do we acknowledge them? This is basically telling them that they are seen and appreciated, and that is something that everybody wants.

This applies not just to your nearest and dearest, but to everybody. An exercise that I sometimes do when I am out in the world is to look at a stranger on the street and remind myself that they have a world that is just as rich and complicated as mine; it probably has tragedy, love, sex, financial problems, heartbreak, joy and loneliness. When I interact with someone, I try to see them as human, not as an ATM that I am trying to get something from. People’s responses vary; some will recognize the invitation and relate, and others are more closed in. I try to match their response, neither intruding nor being closed off.

Whether lovers or strangers, extending an attitude of thank you is the way to make people feel seen, that you have something in common, and there is peace between you. And that is how peace and harmony spread in the world.In a relationship, the little things show what the important big things are #quote #relationships Share on X

MAUDE: My friend and I were taking a long walk and sharing our thoughts and feelings as we often do, when she mentioned how grateful she was that her husband said thank you a lot. It made her feel that she was seen and appreciated. The thing that made a difference to her was that he thanked her for what she called the little things.

Ah, the lovely little things – the little things that show what the important big things are.

The little things like a friend who tells you she feels so much better after talking to you, a partner who cooks a delicious meal, a son who invites you out to lunch just to talk and visit, a friend or lover who breaks out in a genuine smile every time they see you, someone who trusts you with their sorrows and frustrations, a friend who listens when you are having a bad day, a mate who fills the house with flowers to make things beautiful around you.

There is a long list of these little things, different for each of us, but always felt keenly, always making a big difference to the lives they are bestowed upon.

Our experience of the world is very much influenced by our choices. Take a look within and make decisions for yourself. Are you an agent of peace and harmony? Do you wish to be? Look at your communications, both verbal and non-verbal. What are the little things that you practice? Do you acknowledge and appreciate the people you are close to?

Peace and a sense of harmony are visceral. You can spread these in each and every interaction you have; within each relationship there are many opportunities to make them a reality. The more we create peace and harmony and the more we experience them, the more we will be spreading that reality in the world.

Whether it is your lover, your friend or a customer service representative, you can change someone’s day with the acknowledgment that you see them as a person, and offer acceptance and love. After all, it really comes down to the little things.

Photo credit: Maude Mayes
Photo note: Phil offering to fix it

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5 Comments on “Why Little Things Like Thank You are Important in Relationships

  1. Thank you for this important blog! Yes, simple gestures of recognition can have a lasting effect: especially for those with low self-esteem, which can be a debilitating affliction.

  2. A year back, I had a knee problem for a while that made it difficult to work or even go up and down stairs and my wife was a gracious trooper the whole time, always there to support and help me get through everything while still doing what she needed to do. The little things are huge.

    • We so appreciate hearing your experience! Its times like this that wake us up to how big the little things are!
      with love

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