One of the lessons I had to learn during my personal happiness project was how to really say thank you and you’re welcome. Oh, and mean it. Sincerity was, perhaps, the more difficult lesson, I’ll have you know. That’s embarrassing to admit, but I know I’m not the only one.
Someone pays you a compliment or gives you a gift, and sometimes we pass it off like it’s nothing. “You shouldn’t have.” or “where did you find this?” are not the same as “thank you”. “It was nothing.” or a shrug of the shoulders are not the same as “you’re welcome”.
It is at this point in the post when I could write that I was never taught how to do this, but in fact, I was. I still believe in the power of a thank you note though most of the world doesn’t make the time. That’s thanks to the 86-year old woman who still writes to me every week. Recently, she even wrote to thank us for a gift that we didn’t send her. (I’m sure that ruffled some feathers.) You can be taught how to say thank you and how to write a thank you note, but I believe the sincerity is a hard lesson we learn on our own. And we must.
Friends, I understand that we have all been given a gift or two that we didn’t really care for. I get it. I’ve received them. I’ve given them. I know. Our satisfaction with the gift doesn’t change the effort with which it was given. It doesn’t change the sentiment, so I believe it should not lessen the sincerity of our thank you. Suck it up, and say it/write it/text it/message it. If you choose to re-gift after the fact, be sincere it that too. No judgments here.
I want to mention that I learned these lessons about thank you and you’re welcome in a country that doesn’t really say those things. As I have been told, in the Chinese culture, friends are supposed to help each other, without question and without thanks. It’s a beautiful idea. My friend, Grace, helped me order something online last month and when I expressed my appreciation, she said, “no thank you. Don’t say that.” Without question and without thanks. This can be difficult when gift giving because there is no comfort in the recipient’s satisfaction level. When you give someone a gift and there is no response, you might wonder if they liked it, hated it, re-gifted it, never received it, didn’t give a shit about it, put it in a closet, etc. That’s not just China though. I get a 50% thank you rate on gifts among family and friends usually. BUT that doesn’t change the sentiment. It doesn’t change my intention. Actually, it’s not a true measure of the satisfaction level either. I visited someone last fall who had a gift from us displayed proudly on their desk, but they had never acknowledged receipt.
It took me a long time to learn that, while thank you is polite and important, it’s not necessary for me to hear it. In the past, I would be frustrated and resentful if I didn’t get a thank you. “I’m not giving them a gift anymore if they don’t know how to say thank you,” says someone I know. When a family member doesn’t acknowledge you, that says something about them, not you. I’ll continue to give their children holiday gifts whether they say thank you or not. I will be happy to give whether I hear thank you or not.
This lesson is not about other people or other cultures, nor are the other lessons I learned and continue to struggle with. My lessons are about me and the person I am. I cannot blame others if I lack politeness or sincerity. Stop making excuses. I’m forty-four years old and I need to own my shit. Talk about a hard lesson.
For the love of gifts, click on the pictures below.
For those who enjoy the brilliance of TED, take a look at what Laura Trice has to say on this subject. http://www.ted.com/talks/laura_trice_suggests_we_all_say_thank_you?language=en