Of the 20 destructive habits Marshall Goldsmith identifies in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, five have share a common solution.
Say “thank you.”
Sometimes this is obvious, as with habits #10 and #17, “Failing to give proper recognition” and “failing to express gratitude.” In that case, saying “thank you” is a no brainer.
Goldsmith also recommends saying “thank you” as a remedy for less obvious problems, such as habit #18, “punishing the messenger.”
What does saying thank you have to do with not punishing the messanger?
Think of it this way, it’s hard for you to put your foot in your mouth when the words “thank you” are coming out.
In this case, the “thank you” is less about expressing gratitude and more about stopping you from expressing harmful emotions. “Thank you” is a way not to take out your anger on the messenger.
That’s also why saying “thank you” is part of the prescription for habit #3, “passing judgment,” and habit #6, “telling the world how smart we are.”
For habit 6, he explains how “thank you” works, “Stopping this behavior is not hard–a three-step drill in which you (a) pause before opening your mouth to ask yourself, ‘Is anything I say worth it?’ (b) conclude that it isn’t, and (c) say, ‘Thank you.'”
For this to work, though, you have to just say thank you. If you say, “thank you, but…” and then launch into a self-serving lecture about how you could improve on the idea (thereby showing how smart you are), you’ve defeated the purpose.
I picked up on this not because I think it’s an easy fix (I don’t think it is), but because it ties into one of my destructive habits. I often get defensive and bristle when given negative feedback or when I feel at my limit and I’m asked to do more or criticized for not having done more.
Goldsmith’s suggested response of “thank you” would be a big improvement over my defensiveness.
Are you saying “thank you” enough? Are there things you shouldn’t be saying where you’d be better off just saying “thank you”?