THE BLOG
09/28/2015 05:00 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2016

The Reality of Gratitude

Kohei Hara via Getty Images

Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to two of my closest friends almost back to back in an evening. Both had experienced rubbish days. It was late in the evening -- both had finished work late. Both were contemplating giving up their careers and finding something else -- both believing there had to be a better way of going through each day than what they currently were experiencing.

You may be wondering, do they work together? Or just for the same company? Or at least do the same thing? The surprising truth is that one runs a bathroom fitting company and the other is a GP.

The bathroom fitting MD (Managing Director in this instance rather than medical doctor!) really believes in what she does. She takes the opportunity to enhance a family's life with the installation of a thoughtfully designed bathroom seriously. They listen carefully to their clients and craft something that will be both functional and look amazing. She values money and wants her clients to feel like buying from them is an investment they will feel proud of and love the result of for years to come.

Having built the business she owns with her husband up from scratch it means a lot to her. She was employed previously in a couple of different roles and knows how key your job can be to your happiness in life. Good employees are also very important to her. She tries to make their jobs as enjoyable as possible, treating them respectfully and going above and beyond wherever she can.

From her perspective, she spends her life trying to please her clients and her employees - working late into the night, sacrificing hobbies and seeing friends. However, also from her perspective - many of the employees and clients are ungrateful. Employees complain about things behind her back. Clients are unsatisfied. Rarely do people say thank you, we appreciate what you are doing, and what you have done makes our life better.

My GP friend is amazing at her job. She knows the essential clinical side of medicine far better than many older GPs and her personal skills are nothing short of saintly. She regularly spends mornings at nursing homes talking to the nursing staff their about any of the patients they are concerned about, treating very elderly sick patients with complex medical challenges. This is both mentally and emotionally draining. She also has to talk to the relatives of patients and discuss the very real reality of death, and how end of life care will work for their loved one.

Once she has rushed back to the surgery the afternoon session will start. Typically there is no time for lunch, a toilet break if she is lucky. 10 minutes is the scheduled time for each patient. This includes reviewing any previous notes from other doctors, making her own notes, listening to the patient, possibly examining the patient and making any necessary arrangements. Often, as you can imagine, patients need more time. Therefore there is a knock on effect on future patients, often meaning their appointment may be pushed back.

It is quite common for patients to rudely remark about how long they have had to wait. They are choosing to ignore the reality of the circumstances under which their doctor is having to work. She doesn't intentionally keep people waiting, it isn't because she is lounging in a staff room somewhere. It is often because she is telling a 25 year old mother her test results have come back abnormal and she is being referred to a cancer specialist. Or because she is trying to balance the drugs she prescribes to an 84 year old to give him the best quality of life possible.

So, when someone else comes in with a cold and yells about how long they've had to wait and how they "pay your wages" then it takes extra energy to remain professional. This is something she always does, apologizing for their wait, kindly looking them in their eyes and asking how she can help, giving them the time they need to explain and then treating or reassuring them.

However, the toll is great.

When a patient pops in and gives her the biggest hug, (twice) and says they are so glad she works at this surgery it really means something. When a client sends a bunch of flowers to my friend who installs bathrooms it makes her week.

The power of saying thank you is simply incredible. I believe our expectations have negatively shaped us to the point where we can go days without thanking the professionals around us who are doing a great job.