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Two words in the English language when spoken authentically are among the most powerful phrases for promoting social connections: “Thank you.”

How is it possible two simple words can have so much power?

Perhaps it’s because when used authentically these two words demonstrate to the person being thanked how much their effort is appreciated and how grateful the other person is for their taking time to do something with the sole intention of helping them.

It takes less than two seconds to say thank you. However, it could have taken the person helping days, weeks, months and even years in some cases, to complete some quest with the intention of helping others. And somehow our brain has come to terms that when we’re thanked authentically there’s often no expectation for anything in return.

Regardless if there’s money involved, when one person does something for another that has some benefit, recognizing this effort with a simple thank you builds social connections.

This micro skill reminds people how important these two simple words are for showing appreciation and building strong social connections.


When it comes to saying thank you, it’s helpful to consider the different social contexts to make the point that thank you is universal, and the social context doesn’t matter. It can help strengthen social bonds and is beneficial overall.

This is important as it prevents taking people for granted.

Leaders – Even though employees are being paid to do their job there are still tremendous benefits for taking time to recognize good work and to thank your team for contributing. These simple words, when offered over and over with sincerity, can strengthen social connections and build trust between a leader and their employees. Employees tend to trust leaders with whom they have developed a social connection.

Parenting – Role modeling and thanking our children for doing their jobs (such as school work or chores) can also strengthen those bonds and demonstrate appreciation for following through and doing what they have agreed to, and for any additional things they do on their own initiative.

Family and partnerships – Life moves fast, and it’s easy to get into set routines and to take on different roles. Like any other relationship, being open to recognize people we love, not taking them for granted, and thanking them for what they’ve done for us, can strengthen our ties.

Keep top of mind that there’s benefit for not just saying thank you to strangers, acquaintances or professionals we interact with (such as the doctor, accountant, dentist, car mechanic) but also for people we care for personally and professionally.


Human beings are interesting creatures. We typically put stock not just in the spoken words but also on the body language, tone and facial expressions.

Authentic thank yous are just that. They begin from the inside, when you recognize what has been done for you and how you have benefited from it.

Saying thank you and pausing to listen and watch for the other person’s response is a sign of respect. Not all thank yous need to be in person. A handwritten thank you note is also a way to demonstrate appreciation, as you’ve taken time to write out your thoughts and share them with the person being thanked. Even a short e-mail or text message can be okay in a pinch. It’s the action that’s most important and that the receiver feels it’s genuine.

The more authentic the thank you, the more it will positively impact social connections. Each of us must determine how much value we put on social connections and if we’re prepared to make the effort.


Deciding to be more mindful about when and how to say thank you is a positive step for building social connections. One positive for strengthening social connections is that they can positively support our mental health (such as create opportunities and strengthen ties to have people we can talk to in times of need).

Check your mindset – Some of us may feel that there’s no need to thank people for doing their job, whether at home or at work. Ultimately, what’s there to be lost by saying thank you, compared to what’s to be gained? It takes so little effort to say thank you and with each thank you we demonstrate appreciation that can build a social connection and bond. Checking our mindset can help open more opportunities for when and where we can say thank you and show our appreciation for someone and what they’ve done for us. Again, the benefit of this simple action is it can strengthen social connections. Saying thank you for most of us also feels good, as it acknowledges that we’ve gotten something beneficial, regardless of the degree.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto.

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