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The Power of Praise

All of the candy hasn’t even been eaten yet (despite my best efforts), but with the flip of the calendar, everyone’s attention has shifted from Halloween to Thanksgiving. And that means it’s time for my annual reminder to give thanks to those who have taught you something this year, or who have made your work year a success.
The holidays can be such a busy time of year that it’s easy to forget—and hard to find time—to show gratitude to the people who helped you throughout the year. But in our line or work, where relationships and good communication are critical, saying “thank you” and demonstrating your sincerity with some small gesture can help strengthen and maintain relations, and will often lead to additional fruitful partnerships in the future.
Monica Bartlett of Gonzaga University has done quite a bit research on the impact of saying “thank you.” In this video, she says “A simple ‘thank you’ leads people to view you as a warmer human being, and consequently be more interested in socially engaging with you, in continuing to get to know you, to build a relationship with you.”
So, before things get too crazy with the end of the semester, end of the calendar year and holiday season all coming together at the exact same time, resolve to praise those who who’ve worked with you on important stories in the days leading up to Thanksgiving—even if they were just doing their job.
Here are a few small ways to show your appreciation to the journalists who responded to your pitches and the people on campus who did the hard work of being interviewed, especially those who stepped up to the plate during crises. I’ve tried all of them, with positive results. But I’d also love to know how you’ve thanked people. Please share your tips in the comments section.

  • Send a handwritten thank you note. It takes only a few minutes, but makes a bigger, and more lasting, impression than an email. (See the Gonzaga video for evidence of this too.) And be specific about what you’re thankful and which actions meant so much. I keep handwritten notes up in my office (and in my memory) for years, as many people do. It means something to get a personal note in the mail.
  • Tell the person’s boss/bosses (preferably in writing) about their contributions to your work and how it has positively impacted the institution. Think editor, department head, dean, president as appropriate. And remember, in the case of praise, it’s always better to tell more people than fewer.
  • Send gifts. In many cases, a small food item will be appropriate. For instance, dropping a plate of cookies off at your local newsroom is fine, and usually appreciated. Just keep in mind that journalists’ code of ethics prevents them from being able to accept certain gifts. On campus, things may be a little more relaxed. There may be instances where a particular member of your campus community has gone above and beyond and may be deserving of a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop. A t-shirt from the campus bookstore is another option.
  • Schedule a time (maybe during semester break when things are quieter) to treat the person to lunch, or coffee, for their efforts during the year. This will allow you to show your gratitude and will also give you additional face time, thus strengthening the relationship even further. Even if people have been hesitant to meet in the past because of other responsibilities and not enough time, you’d be surprised how calendars can open up when all you want to do is thank someone.

As I continue slyly snacking on the rest of my kids’ Halloween candy these next few days, I’ll also have a stack of thank you cards to work my way through. If nothing else, it makes me feel good to know I’ve taken the time to recognize someone else’s efforts. But my hope is that I’ve made others feel good too.