What has happened? In today’s fast-paced world, we urgently need connection, even the brief bond of two strangers meeting in civil discourse. Any of us who receives a sincere “thank you” knows and appreciates what it means.  Business people who deal with their Asian counterparts know the importance of the bow, the expression of gratitude and the protocol of the introduction, no matter how cut-throat the deal that follows.  Anyone interacting with the French knows how courteous they are, having learned the importance of graciousness from birth.  In Italy it is still customary to say “grazie mille” when a generous moment occurs.

And yet, in our non-stop, sometimes frantic lives we may easily forget the importance of gratitude, the value of that often brief but vital connection we make with strangers when we take a moment to smile and say, “thank you.” Civilized men and women benefit from saying it as much as the one extending the kindness appreciates hearing it.

And it takes so little effort. A gruff, supremely weathered Massachusetts fisherman, dependent on the ocean for his daily catch, never failed to send up a short but fervent “thank you” at the end of a successful haul. “Don’t know if anyone hears but I feel better sayin’ it,” he explained.

For the truly pragmatic, doctors say the person who freely dispenses thank yous is healthier, happier and has more energy than someone who is uncomfortable expressing gratitude. How many cases of road rage could be prevented with simple politeness – letting another driver in line and receiving a grateful wave in return?   How many after-work homecomings would be more peaceful?

Here are a few suggestions from the experts about the newly appreciated art of saying “thank you”:

Smile and make eye contact. Nothing says insincerity more than a mumbled thank you from someone who doesn’t even bother to look you in the eye.

Don’t overdo it. Gushing makes nearly everyone uncomfortable. Acknowledge specifically what someone did for you but don’t go into your life story. Be grateful, be pleasant, and be brief.

Above all else, be sincere. In a Middle Atlantic state motor vehicle office, there is a sign in the employee section that orders, “Thank the customer.” As might be expected, the thank yous hardly ring true. But one employee in that office always stands up at the conclusion of business, looks the customer in the eye, shakes hands and says, “We appreciate your coming in today.” Customers walk out with a smile, not a grimace.

We hope that it is helpful to you to receive these restatements of basic principles that have served our political and business leaders well throughout history. In these distressing, turbulent times, they may prove to be more important than ever for personal fulfillment and professional excellence.

Robert L. Dilenschneider, Chairman and Founder, The Dilenschneider Group, Inc.