Two words can completely change experience

Thank you word cloud

My wife said something to me while I was in the middle of a frustrating experience that completely changed it.

She said thank you.

Here’s the context: one of our domains remains with a registrar we used years ago. The Old Registrar does not send reminders effectively, and so every year the domain expires. It happens to be the domain on which my wife’s email account lives, so every year she notices that she can’t get email and tells me about it.

Almost every year we run into problems getting the registration renewal form go through. (I don’t have it renew automatically because a) I’m a control freak, and b) I keep hoping to transfer it anyway.) This year was the same problem as last year. The credit card number changed, so I told the form to use a different card, and in the process of giving it the new information, it threw an error message: “Phone number is a required field, and it must be nothing except digits.”

It’s not my actual phone number here, but it’s something like 7685917239. Last I checked, at least since numbers were invented, those are all digits. Yet, it would not go through. So I chose the “Live Chat,” and sat there for 30 minutes waiting for someone to get to me.

As I sat there steaming over bad customer experience and vowing for the umpteenth time that I am going to find a way to transfer this domain, my wife said, “Thank you for getting this taken care of.”

“Thank you.” Those two words changed my whole experience.

I’m still steamed at the domain registrar, and I was still happy to help my wife. It didn’t really change my emotional makeup except that it changed my focus, and that changed everything.

I get frustrated with bad customer service, so when I’m shouting invective at the computer screen, I’m shouting at them. But there is no thought in there like, “I wish my wife just wouldn’t want to get at her email.” It’s more like, “This should be simple, yet these people are making it hard for me to give them money.”

It’s not simply that her “thank you” balances the frustration. Neither do I need constant stroking or “good job” or anything like that. Rather, it’s the same sort of thing as when I’m in a rush, running out the door to the car, and happen to notice that the cloud overhead is particularly interesting and gorgeous. It pulls me back into the moment, helps me appreciate life, and it reduces the stress I’m feeling in the rush. I may keep moving just as fast, but my whole experience of it changes. That what it does for me when she reminds me (because I do know it, but reminding helps) that she appreciates it when I do something like get the domain name thing worked out.

It changes my focus. I’m no longer doing battle with an unnecessarily complex process; I’m taking care of something for someone I love. (Note: saying things like “calm down” to someone who is upset does not create this effect–probably because it doesn’t change the focus.)

How can a change of focus change your experience? I always look for ways to tell people at work that I’ve noticed they care and are doing a good job (and I need to do more of that at home). How can a small word or phrase change the focus for someone in your life?

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Author: Donn King

Donn King works with individuals and organizations who want to forge top-notch communication skills to increase their influence and impact. He is associate professor of speech and journalism at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as a speaker and writer. His background includes ministry, newspaper, radio, small magazines and other publications, as well as co-authoring a textbook and blogging.