The Benefits of Saying ‘Thank You’

The Benefits of Saying ‘Thank You’

It is not unusual to want to change someone else’s behavior. I hear this from parents, teachers and partners in a relationship. One can try a couple of techniques. 

First, try to ignore a person’s behavior so that they get no attention for what they are doing. If a child keeps calling a parent into their bedroom after they have been told it is time to go to sleep, they will eventually cease asking if the parent starts ignoring them. By going into the room, the parent teaches the child to continue the behavior because the child gets their way. 

Another method is to create a consequence that makes continuing a behavior undesirable. If a child is asked to clean their bedroom and they do not, taking away their phone for a day can encourage them to behave differently next time. 

The third approach is to reward desirable behavior. If asked to clean a bedroom and the child does so, verbally expressing pleasure, or giving a smile can encourage the behavior to repeat next time. 

Too often, we fail to acknowledge desirable behavior. We tend to expect it and are more inclined to complain when it does not occur. 

Recently, I broke a tooth. It was a molar, in the back of my mouth. I went to the dentist and had an X-ray. I was advised to get a root canal and a crown. I indicated I did not want to pursue that option. I wanted the tooth extracted and was not concerned about the empty space. I was told I would have to go to another facility to do that. I asked if the primary dentist in this practice would do it instead. I was told two days later that he would, and I scheduled a time. 

When I went in, he examined the X-ray and my mouth. He asked me why I was choosing extraction. I told him. He suggested that, since I had no pain or discomfort, it would be worth filling in the space and keeping the tooth that remained. I was so impressed by his thinking and was very happy I had not gone elsewhere to have the extraction. He did the filling and said we would see how long it lasted, and, in the future, I could always have the extraction if there was a problem. 

When I left, I was told by the receptionist that there was no charge. What a kind gesture. I decided to pay it forward to one of my clients. 

When I moved to California seven years ago, knowing no one in Alameda, I selected this dental practice because I read they went out of the United States to help in poorer countries. I was impressed. 

I picked well. And I thank this doctor for his thinking, his work and his generosity. Acknowledgement here is very important to me. May this type of work continue. 


Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to or through her website,