The other day I was speaking with a professor from school and a PhD student here in Australia. We spoke for about forty-five minutes on video games, education, and other social issues. At the end of the conversation, something a bit unusual happened that got me thinking. As we were saying goodbye to each other, the Australian student said thank you to both of us, each time mentioning something specific that we said in the conversation. Specifically, he said, “Thank you George, for telling me about ___________________, it was really interesting.” It caught me off guard. I’ve been in a million conversations but can’t remember a single time someone actually thanked me for my contribution. It felt empowering. It showed that he was listening and thought my input was important enough to remember and comment on. What a great feeling! Instantly it established a more meaningful connection between us, one of mutual understanding and respect.
Sometimes it’s easy to be absent in a conversation, to think our own thoughts while the other person is speaking instead of really listening to them. But this implies that we think our own input is more important than theirs, which is not only selfish and arrogant but often times erroneous. However, when we really start to pay attention and listen, we realize that everyone has something valuable to offer. Everyone has a perspective that no one else has, and everyone has ideas that only they can explain. When we notice this, and when we fully focus on them, it propels the conversation onto a whole new level. On this level we instantly become aware of how much we can gain from one another just by listening. Accordingly, thanking the other person for their contributions then seems obvious. Why wouldn’t we thank them for sharing their time and ideas? After all, those are two of the most valuable things they have to offer.
Maybe “thank you”, then, is a better and more appropriate way to end a conversation than “good bye”. Just a thought…
I wonder, how do your conversations end? With “good bye” or with “thank you”? Is there anyone you really need to thank for sharing their thoughts with you? How can we all show more appreciation for the people we interact with?
As I learned recently, a little thank you can go a long way. It’s not hard to find something to compliment, either, as long as we’re paying attention and fully engaged. Every one has something valuable to contribute. Listen, you’ll see!