It has been a little over two years that Sarah Fader, the Social Media Director of OCH and the CEO & Founder of the Stigma Fighters non-profit organization, and myself, have been working together. We work very well together, like an inspiring Libra/Gemini couple might (cueing my boyfriend for that one), and no project big or small is something we can’t handle. During that time, we have come in contact with more people who are either rude, unprofessional, or downright inappropriate than we have with people who seem to be aware of how to conduct themselves on the Internet. It is as if people have lost their ability to communicate, and, for what seems like ages, Sarah has been half-jokingly asking me to run a class to teach people how they are supposed to act.
As a somewhat hilarious compromise, we have decided to offer weekly tips on Facebook on How to be a Human, and explain in depth in this magazine why these little things are important to the big picture of what we call life.
Our first session will be on saying thank you.
“Yes, I can read [your article], but you know what would make me want to fucking read it more? THANK YOU.” -Sarah Fader
I was raised to thank people. I had a nice Jewish mother who taught me about gratitude. It started with gratitude lists. Whenever I was having a shitty day, my mom would sit me down and ask me to list 10 things I was grateful for. When I was the most depressed, making a gratitude list was helpful and healing. But “thank you” did not stop there. My mom taught me that when someone does something for you, anything really, you ought to take a moment and tell that individual “thank you.” Thank you for helping me go through my old file cabinet full of shit that I was too overwhelmed to deal with. Thank you for taking me out for coffee. Thank you for listening to me cry about my breakup. I know I went on for fucking hours, but that shit really hurt and he cheated on me.
Thank you is not difficult to say. But, you would never know this the way that most human beings behave on the Internet. People often assume that you will do things for them because you know how to do them. Can you read this article I’m working on? Yes, I can read it, but you know what would make me want to fucking read it more? THANK YOU. Thank you for reading my article. I really appreciate it. Is that so motherfucking hard? I don’t understand why people do not say these things to each other.
You ask someone to help you in any capacity – say thank you. It’s that fucking simple.
Now, here’s how saying thank you helps people who have anxiety. As an anxious person, my default mechanism is to assume that you hate me and that I did something terribly wrong. But, if you thank me for helping you, I am reminded that you don’t hate me and that I did something awesome. So that’s cool! Also, it’s not difficult to thank another human being. “Thank you” is two words. You can type them, email them, call someone on the telephone and say them, send a carrier pigeon with a thank you card in its beak to the person’s house. I don’t fucking care how you do it, just do it.
Here, I’ll start – thank you for reading this article. I really appreciate the fact that you took the time out of your day to dedicate to reading these words.
“Why wouldn’t you recognize someone for doing something positive? Don’t you like to feel appreciated?” -Allie Burke
I don’t specifically remember my mother (my father wasn’t present until about age thirteen) emphasizing the importance of saying thank you to people. She worked two jobs and was possibly on drugs – most definitely drunk – throughout my childhood. She was gone a lot. Truthfully, I don’t remember most of my childhood before I moved in with my father, so it’s possible that it was an important part of my upbringing, but I doubt it.
For me, please and thank you is not something that is taught, but more an element of common sense. My experience with one individual in my corporate job now has me over-thanking people. My boyfriend told me recently, “I don’t think you are supposed to thank people for worrying about you.” I told him his worries for my safety shows that he cares, so yes, it does warrant a thank you. Thank you for caring for me. I thank people at work for facilitating an important meeting, and I have always thanked those who provide me any kind of opportunity to better myself, such as a job interview, or an opportunity to learn something that they are better at.
This way of thinking convolutes my understanding of the topic. From someone with a rough childhood and barely any guidance at a young age, why is it so hard? Why is it so hard to understand that the right thing to do – when mental health is involved or not – is to say thank you when someone does something they don’t have to do? Even if they have to do it, aren’t you grateful? Why wouldn’t you recognize someone for doing something positive? Don’t you like to feel appreciated?
I am shocked by the number of people who think you owe them something, like Sarah said, because you know how to do it and they don’t. People expect things. Where does this self-righteousness come from? I owe you nothing, and will do nothing for you if you can’t take enough time out of your busy day to say two words.
Allie Burke and Sarah Fader are the powerhouse queens of the mental health movement. Together, they have taken the Stigma Fighters platform off the Internet and into the international non-profit streets of colleges, high schools, mass media, and into the hearts of people with mental illnesses, all over the world. They are the brains behind the OCH Literary Society, the Stigma Fighters anthologies and graphic novels, and the Write Your Truth and The 577 Block writing therapy courses. They have been featured in Psychology Today, Huffington Post, Good Day New York, and Women’s Health.
Sarah lives in Brooklyn and Allie lives in Los Angeles.