What do people thank you for? How do you surprise and delight other people? (Because you know the truth is that you do.)
Thank-yous. The expected sort (“I did this thing you asked me to!/Happy birthday!” “Thank you!”) and the surprising sort.
There is the sort of thanks that is surprising because the thing I am being thanked for is so ordinary, hasn’t required any sort of special effort. “Thank you for sending that email.” I once worked with someone who had the habit of thanking and congratulating people effusively for doing the most trivial tasks, which, I found, rather lowered my respect for them – and myself. You are impressed that I sent a very simple and obvious email? You are clearly very easily impressed – or your expectations of me are insultingly low. Thanking me for doing the minimum I would expect of myself anyway. I fear I’m rather ungracious at accepting that sort of thanks, at least when it jars with my own estimation of the worth of or effort put into a particular task.
Then there’s the sort of thanks that’s acknowledging something that I didn’t even know I’d done. While I’ve a pretty good idea of the worth of my own work, I’m constantly underestimating my own self: I’m always surprised to find that people like me, miss me, enjoy my company. For example, I don’t think of myself as someone who smiles much, but a week after I’d left my old job I got an email from someone there with the subject ‘Missing your smiling face!’ That one made me smile – consciously – all day. My oldest friend – the friend I’ve known the longest, I mean – got married last week, and was tremendously grateful to me for coming. And, even though it felt absolutely right to have borrowed the in-laws’ car and driven half-way across the country for this, and I’d have got my own driving license and driven further if it had come to it (and it was in a tipi, and was huge fun!), I did appreciate her gratitude.
I think there’s something there about the difference between being grateful for who I am, and being grateful for what I do, and the different levels within ‘what I do’.
I very much like it when I do something that I think is good, and so do other people. There’s a story of mine out there on the internet (not under this name, so I’m not linking) which someone has tagged with the comment ‘Empowering as fuck’. That pleases me, a lot. And, on the occasions where I have put a lot of work and somebody notices, I’m really happy. That doesn’t have to be serious, either. Still on the topic of emails (I do do other things at work, I swear), I remember with great fondness a comment something like “I like your emails, Kathleen, they make me laugh”. I appreciated that; I can’t remember what the original was about, but I think I had gone to some effort to make it amusing as well as informative. The sort of thing that I was secretly hoping for a thank-you for, but I wouldn’t have admitted that to anybody, particularly myself. The secret little glow that comes along with, I was hoping that this person would like this thing, and they do. Much like the birthday present that is absolutely perfect for that particular person, and that they like just as much as you hoped they were going to.
And then the things that fall outside my job description (any of my job descriptions), that are none the less appreciated. I used to be – and am beginning to be again, now my new colleagues have caught on – the woman that people would look to if they had something that needed a thorough going over for spelling mistakes. Also, they liked it when I brought in home-made fudge. Fudge and proofreading. Sweetness and accuracy. Yes. That’s what I want people to look to me for.