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The Power of Thank You

Two new books spotlight benefits of expressing gratitude

By February, under the influence of the "karmic success" of the missives, he began sending notes everywhere. Recipients included his building's superintendent, the woman at the animal shelter where his daughter adopted a pet, colleagues at his firm, and lawyers who battled him in cases. No one, he found, thought he'd gone nuts, and virtually all recipients responded with appreciation at the thoughtfulness.

Simple, handwritten notes

The process also eased the weight of Kralik's myriad problems. "After a half-hour of writing thank-you notes, the murk of my fear, upset and self-pity seemed to dissipate," he says.

Soon when someone asked Kralik, "How are you?," he didn't moan but mentioned something for which he was grateful. Months passed, and his life began to turn around. His harried, and well-thanked, law office staff stayed with him and began sending thank-yous to each other, and clients he had thanked for paying their bills sometimes sent their checks early.

More than three years later, Kralik, now a judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court, still writes thank-you notes, but not at the same pace. By January 2011, he had sent about 650.

Kralik's rules for giving thanks are simple. He always writes a draft, writes from the heart, and writes notes, not letters, on 3-by-5-inch cards. That way, he explains in the book, "there is only room to focus on the one good thing that person just did for you, and your gratitude for that one good thing. For this one moment and this one communication, all else is left aside." He doesn't dismiss e-mail thank-yous, but says they risk disappearing in cyber clutter.

Occasionally Kralik takes a break from sending thank-yous, but says if he stops too long the old impatience surfaces. When he returns to the routine, he ultimately feels better.

"The more you write, the more good things happen to you," he says.

Frank McCoy is a writer in Catonsville, Md.

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