How odd would this be – you’re watching a live news story and see a firefighter rush into a burning building and rescue the family member of a distraught onlooker. After embracing their loved one, they turn to the heroic firefighter and say, “Thank you for your time.” Or consider, you’re in an airport and observe someone approach a member of our military in uniform who’s just returning from a tour of duty in hostile territory. You hear the grateful person say to the veteran, “Thank you for your time.”
That doesn’t sound right, does it? It sounds odd to thank these people for helping or serving by thanking them merely for their time. Saying that in other contexts would also seem off. For example, to a surgeon who just performed an operation or to the pilot as you exit the plane.
The reason it sounds odd to thank a veteran, pilot, firefighter or surgeon for their “time” is because it’s easy to recognize that those professionals provide so much more than their time when they perform their work. They apply their training, skill, courage, talent, judgment, sense of duty and much more when they help or serve us.
Yet we regularly hear people thank others for their “time” in contexts that, while perhaps less dramatic or compelling, are also worthy of a high impact, meaningful expression of appreciation.
Just the other day I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, one on news and other current events and compelling human-interest stories. Three different guests each spoke thoughtfully on the topic as the host interviewed them over the phone. They displayed what appeared to be a career long pursuit and achievement of expertise in their field. They listened attentively and gave responsive and enlightening answers, helping listeners and callers more thoroughly understand a complicated topic.
Seeking to express her appreciation as she was concluding the interviews, the host said to each of the experts, “Thank you for your time,” as if that’s all they provided.
What they really provided, what they really did to earn the “thank you,” was to share their insight and wisdom in a way that contributed to a compelling conversation and broadcast. Think about it – the guests could have literally stayed on their phone line and not said a single word during the show and still have provided their “time.”
Why then do people use the word “time” to describe another’s contribution that involves so much more?
I know, some people may think I’m being picky by pointing out this issue. They may think, “Don’t get hung up on a word, after all, I said thanks” or “What’s the big deal, they know what I meant.” I recognize that expressing appreciation is certainly better than not doing so. I also understand that because we hear “thanks for your time” so often, and the person being thanked generally responds well to it, it’s easy to adopt the practice and follow the commonplace convention.
Is that really the way to express gratitude – in a commonplace way? Is that really the best way for an expression of appreciation to sound to the person being thanked? Or, is it better to say “thank you” in a way that stands out and makes a real impact?
How can you make a powerful impact when thanking someone? How can you increase the chance the person will really feel good about it and remember it?
Get into some details about what the person really did, and how it made a positive difference for you. Dig deeper and mention what they really provided during the time they were helping you and why it mattered.
For example, consider a situation where two or more people have a conversation or meeting about any number of topics. This situation is one where the “Thank you for your time” line is often rolled out once it’s over. Depending on what occurred during the interaction, one or more of the following can be a better way to say thanks:
Thank you for listening attentively and hearing me out. You helped me vent some frustration and I feel better now.
Thanks for sharing your opinion. You provided a unique perspective that I hadn’t considered before and I think I see this issue in a new light.
You gave me great advice, and I believe I’m going to be able to use it to make a good decision. Thank you.
I appreciate each of you for rolling up your sleeves, digging into the problem and finding a solution. Each of you helped our customers have a more enjoyable experience and they are now likely to be return customers and give our team positive reviews.
Thanks for handling my concern in a respectful way and fixing the problem. I know I’m going to use your product again based on how you treated me.
My bet is you’ll make an enhanced and positive impact on the person you’re thanking by using an enhanced version of “thank you” – one that really gets after what they did during the time they were helping you and the positive difference they made for you. A few additional thoughtful words can make a lasting impression and really honor the person you’re thanking.
Thank you for reading and considering my article. I appreciate you for applying your thinking and judgment about it.
© 2018 Rob Otte
Rob Otte is a teacher, speaker, writer and coach. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.