“Thank You” Isn’t Just About Etiquette

I’ve started dropping friends and acquaintances who fail to thank.  Be it for a present, a favour or simply for having had dinner at my home.  It’s my choice and although it may appear as unforgiving, I have good reasons for acting this way.

For me, “thank you” isn’t just a formality, or something old-fashioned to be dispensed with in this world where every rudeness and disrespect justifies itself with the word “busy”.  After all, what makes the other person’s time more valuable than mine? If I have found the time to buy a present, do a favour or cook a meal, then surely the other person – unless suddenly physically incapacitated – has the time to express his/her appreciation of my gesture.  Because for me thanking isn’t just two words to throw at someone as casually as the used, over-used and abused British “sorry”, but a full acknowledgement of the giver’s act.  It’s communicating to the other person, “I take full responsibility for accepting what you give me by acknowledging both it and you.”  It’s allowing for interaction, for dialogue, for energy to flow both ways.

Yes, I think accepting something carries a degree of responsibility because it is an exercise in choice.  You have a choice in whether you accept something from someone.  A gift is a form of engagement with the other person, and failure to thank means a failure in engaging in turn, a failure to make the gift a living thing, effectively by allowing it to fall down a black hole.  I don’t buy the cop-out “They did that for us because they wanted to – it was their choice”.  It was equally your choice to accept and denying it is deeply disrespectful and tantamount to telling those people, “You’re invisible”.

Many of us remember huffing and puffing while dutifully writing thank-you letters for Christmas and birthday presents.  I even remember a time when a couple of days after a dinner party, your guests would send you a thank-you card.  Only last week, I received one such card from a couple we’d had ’round for dinner and it was such a pleasure to see that they’d taken the time to choose and write a card.  In these “busy” times, this is a precious little nugget, and I’m usually happy with a ‘phone call, e-mail or even a text message.  Something that says, “I see you”.

Time and again, I hear friends who haven’t been thanked by their own friends, relatives or children, excuse them by saying, “Oh, they’re very busy” or, worse, “I know they’re grateful, even if they haven’t actually said it.”  I don’t think telepathic thanks count.  It’s too easy.  Too passive.  Gifts, favours and food are not given telepathically.  Gratitude, like love, isn’t a state but an action.  It’s what distinguishes us from plants.

So, if a friend or acquaintance does not acknowledge my gesture of kindness towards him/her, they are saying, “You’re invisible.  You don’t exist.”

And an invisible person cannot express him/herself.  A person who does not exist cannot possibly keep in touch with you, right?

Scribe Doll


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14 Responses to “Thank You” Isn’t Just About Etiquette

  1. Deep appreciation is expressed with simple words- thank you. I made my kids send thank you notes after every Christmas and Birthday. They learned how much that meant to those who had taken the time to chose a gift for them. They are gracious adults. Being gracious, and grateful goes a long way to restoring some civility in our increasingly boorish society.

  2. .THANK YOU, Katia, for making a very valid point. I can’t help feeling resentment when people treat me this way, regardless of the offhand excuse they might offer if I challenged them on it. I’ve omitted a person from my gift list for several years now who accepts with apparent thankfulness but who never follows up with card, note, e-mail, phone call, what-have-you, to acknowledge. She’s a part of our family network, so I’m sure she wonders what’s going on, but then she’s a bit spoiled in the sense of being given a lot during her growing up, and giving back not so much. When I mention it to my mother (one of those excuse-makers) she always says, “Oh, so-and-so is just a little preoccupied/forgetful/etc., she really appreciates it.” To my way or thinking as to yours, true thankfulness includes expressing one’s emotion outright, even if one is normally emotionally backward.

    • Scribe Doll says:

      Thank you for your heartfelt comment, Vicki. Yes, there are too many people who feel “entitled”. I strongly believe that it’s wrong to delegate the whole responsibility of a gift or favour to the giver. The accepter also takes on a personal responsibility by accepting (or should!). It’s a two-way street.

  3. Sue Cumisky says:

    Thank you for taking the trouble to write the blog! it is much appreciated.

  4. Christine Hartelt says:

    Katia, I am deeply grateful for what in 2016 will be 30 years of friendship with you! 🙂 I agree with you that it’s important to give thanks for many reasons. I find that the act of giving thanks gives me another opportunity for connection with a person. It also feels good to have “an attitude of gratitude.” These days my poor, addled brain can’t always remember, “Did I send a ‘thank you’ card or e-mail to that person or not?” I think I need a better system. I moved to Minneapolis recently and could not have done that w/o the help of many volunteers. I am both exhausted and deeply grateful. I’m also glad to get back to reading your blog!

  5. sammee44 says:

    Love this post of yours, Katia. In this technological 21st Century, it should be very simple to write or express a simple “Thank you”–but the person(s) who should be doing this and deem themselves too “busy” are merely showing their inconsiderate or thoughtless side. And of course, a simple thank you becomes moot the longer it’s put off or delayed. . . .Your timely post is perfect for the soon-to-be social month of December!

  6. Elizabeth Stanford says:

    Yes indeed, Katia! I frequently feel invisible too. There are no excuses.

    • Scribe Doll says:

      That’s right. There are no excuses for a simple thank you. It gets to the point where I don’t care if it’s “meant” – I just want to have it. Good manners aren’t always sincere but without them life would be unbearable. Thank you for your comment.

  7. 🙂 ..as a waiter once opined in Montreal recently: ‘People don’t “je vous en prie” any more…’

    • Scribe Doll says:

      That’s right! In the UK, when I pay for something in a shop and say “thank you”, I get “No problem” or “You’re welcome” in return. Like hell! I’ve paid for the item, so the seller/sales assistant should also thank me for my money! Thank you for commenting.

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