Saying thank you ©

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Some time ago, I wrote a piece entitled “Give without expectation” and as it’s now the season of “giving”, I want to write about saying thank you.

I fully understand that different cultures have different ways of expressing connection with people, as well as different views about what is considered appropriate behaviour, what constitutes manners, what etiquette is all about, how to implement it, etc. Heck, even within the same family unit one finds differences about all this ..

But back to the general population ….

For example, I’ve read that some Christians apparently want God to get the glory for everything that happens and everything that is given and received. Okay, but doesn’t God work through flesh and blood people? Let’s thank God by all means, but let’s also thank the person God created ….

I’ve also read that in the Chinese culture when friends and family members give to one another, even if it’s something simple like passing the salt to someone, it isn’t deemed necessary to say “thank you” because people give to one another, they do things for one another, and “thank you” is superfluous.

This brings me to my understanding of “small town mentality”. I don’t mean small town mentality in the sense of people being small-minded, not worldly, being judgemental, or everyone knowing everyone’s business. No. I mean “small town mentality” in the sense of an attitude, a way of being and living, the sense that family is primary, is an insular unit made up of members of one’s family where everyone looks out for one another, but where outsiders are nevertheless tolerated and treated with respect. And I mean it in the sense of these types of people doing things for others without expecting or needing to be thanked because they know that the other would do the same for them.

I’m all for family, I’m all for looking out for people, and I’m all for knowing people are “there” for one another but knowing that someone would do the same for me doesn’t preclude thanking the person. In my view, saying thanks is a way of acknowledging in a tangible way that the person gave something, was thoughtful, helped, did something good/nice/considerate/unexpected.

Ah, acknowledgement and appreciation – I’m sure there are people in the world who have no need for appreciation and acknowledgement (the classic introverts). Good for them. They have saved themselves a whole lot of discomfort by not placing themselves at the mercy of anyone who has the power to acknowledge and appreciate them. But in this day of such utter chaos and disconnection in the world, isn’t it a good feeling actively to show appreciation to others, irrespective of how important they are to us but especially those who are important to us?

And then there are degrees of thanking people I think, e.g. saying thanks after dinner as you fly out to your car is definitely considered having said thanks. Should you then follow that up with a phone call, or note or something? I think so, depending on circumstances and who is involved. I personally hate not getting that subsequent call, text, or note. I’m not talking about crazy, formal, sometimes incomprehensible etiquette; I’m just referring to simple good manners, being considerate towards people, and being more aware.

So I want to ask: Why don’t people say thank you, apart from just not having good manners?

Do they feel that by saying thank you they are obligated in some way?

Do they feel it diminishes them to say thank you?

Do they feel it is unnecessary because the giver should know they appreciate what was given?

Do they feel that if they didn’t ask for something or could do it for themselves, or the giver also enjoyed XYZ, or the giver was the one who initiated XYZ that they don’t need to say thank you?

Do they feel that being given something automatically means that the giver wants something from them, so they don’t say thank you and that ends the interaction and what the other might expect?

Do people have such a sense of entitlement that receiving is a given, with no thanks required or even entertained?

Do people have such low self-esteem that they would feel they don’t deserve to be given anything, and having also to say thank you just muddles things further?

I find all of this curious. We know how many thousands of people thank the Lord every day or whichever higher power they believe in. We know that there is even a national holiday in parts of the world called Thanksgiving. But we don’t always and appropriately say thank you to the people with whom we share the planet. What’s that about!

I loved what I heard from a relationship expert recently (Wendy Walsh) – that giving and connection should be done in a spirit of not keeping score (this isn’t about keeping score); we give to express gratitude (yes, so could we also say thanks in order to express gratitude?) and that giving doesn’t need to be reciprocal (as in like for like – sure, but isn’t it great to acknowledge the other?)

Thanking in my view is a form of giving – giving back to the person, giving of our own thoughtful energy, giving acknowledgement to someone. But we’ve rapidly become a species of takers in all its manifestations, and we quite simply couldn’t be bothered with some of the more delicate human interactions.

So what do we do?

Do we stop giving, thereby depriving ourselves of the pleasure associated with giving? Depends.

Do we make the other person feel bad? Yes! Actually, I suppose, no …

Do we try to change the other person? Good luck with that.

Or do we focus on the great qualities and attributes of the “lazy & tardy thanker”, and take our minds and hearts off the lack of (proper) thanks or the delay in being thanked? Yep, this might be the way to do it.

Beba Papakyriakou (BA; Hons BA Psychology)
Sunday 18 December 2011

Published on the newageblog 20.12.2011
Published on on 24.12.2011

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