Day 19: Saying thank you better and receiving it better

Leading up to Thanksgiving, each day I will blog about what I’m doing to be more grateful. I invite you to join me, and to share your thoughts, observations, suggestions and ideas.

Day 19: Giving and receiving verbal thanks better

How often have you heard, or been part of, a conversation that sounded like this:

Thanks so much! You’re great.

No problem.

On a blog about gratitude, I will most certainly not discourage saying thank you. It’s always a good thing to do.

But I think we might all benefit from a little practice both in giving and receiving verbal gratitude.

What could the giver of thanks do better in the example above? Just like in these pointers on writing a thank you note:

  • be specific about what you’re saying thank you for
  • use  a voice that feels real and appropriate
  • perhaps share the thanks with others who matter — the person’s boss, for example, or your fellow book club members.

I am practicing not just feeling gratitude but expressing it clearly and specifically.

Free Orkut and My Space Thank You Graphics Glitters
Orkut Myspace Thank You Comments & Graphics

Maybe if the person I’m thanking is a coworker who helped with a project I’m presenting, I might say to the assembled group “I’d like to say a special thanks to Joe for working so hard to make this report really come together. He’s the one who did the heavy lifting on the programming and he did a great job.”

Maybe if the person I’m thanking if my fabulous veterinarian, C.J. Norton, I will say “Thank you so much for the interest you have shown in my sick, old cat. I can’t imagine what her last few months would have been like without your care. ”

Maybe it’s Jim and Courtney, our gracious Thanksgiving hosts, it will be “Thanks so much for all the hard work you put in to hosting us all. It’s really kind of you to share your home with us.”

Of course, if you ever get tongue tied, you can always resort to writing a thank you note.

On the flip side, receiving gratitude is something that makes many people squirm. They either dismiss it — “Oh, it was no problem at all” — or they make a joke to diffuse it — “Aww, go on. No really, go on.”

I had the chance recently to tell a former boss how grateful I was that he’d hired me and that I’d gotten to work for him. He smiled and when I was done, he responded warmly “You’re kind to say that.” It honored my compliment without deflecting and made the whole exchange even nicer.

Maybe saying “You’re welcome,” sounds too formal in some situations. How about “I’m happy to help,” or as my ex-boss said, “You’re very kind.” Don’t those sound better than “It was the least I could do” or “No sweat?”

Miss Manners still advocates for receiving thanks the traditional way — “you’re welcome.”

Dear Miss Manners,
What are we supposed to say when someone says thank you? I have always responded, “You’re welcome.” It has been brought to my attention that this is improper. In the Spanish culture, “de nada” (meaning “it was nothing”) is what they say, which always bothered me, making it sound like my thank you was nothing. I have heard “my pleasure” and thank you back as responses. What do you say?

Gentle Reader,
“You’re welcome.” There is nothing improper about it. Miss Manners begs you not to mess with the conventions, which are indeed different in different languages but nevertheless feel right where they are used. Lately, other responses have crept in, notably “No problem” and “Thank YOU,” which annoy those who then analyze them for meaning. The beauty of conventions is that you can accept them without having to think about them.

Do you feel you’re good at giving verbal thanks? How about receiving? Could you work on getting better?


Categories: lifestyle

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7 replies

  1. This is good advice. To deflect a sincere thank you diminishes the sentiment. If someone wants to thank you, let them.


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