The Best Way to Show Gratitude to Patients and Staff

November 6, 2014
Sue Jacques

Sharing kind words with patients and staff is critical to building strong relationships. Here are six ways to show gratitude more effectively.

Thanksgiving is a special time of year. Families, friends, colleagues, and even strangers go out of their way to gather together to share gratitude, reminisce about positive accomplishments, and feast on the bounties of life.

But why reserve appreciation for one special weekend? Especially since extending expressions of sincere gratitude on a regular basis can go a long way toward enhancing the general tone within professional, domestic, and community environments year-round.

Current research is validating that gratitude improves overall health and well-being. In this 10-minute video, Dr. Jeffrey Huffman, director of the cardiac psychiatry research program at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, shares some interesting medical findings from the Gratitude Research in Acute Coronary Events (GRACE) project, which is exploring "the impact of gratitude on biology and behavior in persons with heart disease."

The results of feeling gratitude extend beyond the recipients of thoughtful feedback, though. Expressing spontaneous and genuine words of kindness can have a positive impact on the benefactors of such sentiments, as well.

Here are six simple civility suggestions that will inspire you to genuinely - and generously - share your thankfulness.

1. Focus on the positive. A simple shift in vernacular, like saying, "I'll always remember …" instead of, "I'll never forget …" can mark a pivotal point in adopting a more optimistic outlook. And, since optimism is at the heart of gratitude, it's a great place to begin. Whenever possible, replace a negative word with a positive one, and watch your approach to appreciation evolve.

2. Say it like you mean it. Authenticity matters when it comes to saying thank you. Your body language can say something entirely different than your words. That's why it's wise to mono-task when sharing gratitude. If you're in the presence of someone you'd like to thank, make an effort to stop whatever else you're doing so you can make eye contact when you speak. The same is true when you're talking on the phone, because even though they can't see your face, people can sense the level of sincerity in your voice.

3. Send handwritten thank-you notes. It may sound primitive to some people, but a written note of appreciation can't be beat, even in these days of instant communication. Though it takes a little more effort to write rather than type, text, or leave your message in a voice mail, an "old fashioned" note of thanks provides tangible, lasting evidence of your gratitude. People who would normally delete an electronic comment of gratitude will likely save a handwritten card, and they'll remember you for sending it.

4. Compliment people freely, beginning with "you." It's subtle, but saying, "You are doing a great job" is preferable to saying, "I like the work you're doing." Why? By beginning with the word you, you're shining a light on the other person's attributes rather than focusing on your personal opinion about them. It's a less subjective and more generous way to articulate an accolade. Generally speaking, it's advisable to begin a compliment with the word you and an apology with the word I.

5. Share more kudos than complaints. Start taking note of the number of complaints vs. the number of kudos you give in a day. If there's an imbalance favoring complaints, begin making changes. It may mean biting your tongue rather than grumbling about a grievance or coming up with a constructive solution to a longstanding concern. Either way, you'll likely find that the people you work with are more pleasant and easygoing when you stop constantly complaining about your worries and woes.

6.Thank people you wouldn't normally thank. Spending extended amounts of time with the same people - in your personal and professional life - can lead to complacency when it comes to thanking them for the things they do. Reach out to long-term staff members, familiar colleagues, and faithful family and friends to let them know how much you value their support. But don't stop there. Willingly share random words of appreciation with strangers, newcomers, patients, and providers.

As you prepare to count your blessings this Thanksgiving, please remember to share your gratitude daily. You'll be thankful you did.

Sue Jacques is The Civility CEO®, a veteran forensic medical investigator turned corporate civility consultant, professional speaker, and author. Jacques helps individuals and businesses gain confidence, earn respect, create courteous corporate cultures, and prosper through professionalism.