An elemental part of our training in politeness has fallen on hard times.

One of the first things I can remember being taught was to say thank you. Even today, I see parents asking their kids the same question I was asked when I was given something. That of course is, “What do you say?” the answer obviously being, “Thank you.” So it’s been ingrained in us since we were little kids. I’ve also seen and experienced the withholding of that something until the all-important “Thank you” was uttered. Maybe it’s that sort of indoctrination/extortion that made thank you less of an admission of gratitude and more a password for whatever we wanted whether we were grateful or not.

Today, as an adult I see “Thanks” as almost a throwaway word. It’s something we toss over our shoulder to the wait staff as we head off with our food or drinks. Or something we throw into the end of conversation when it really doesn’t even apply; merely an utterance that precedes “goodbye.” Even when written it’s commonly shortened to “thx” as if it’s not even worth the time to include the last three letters. But how did we get here and have we forgotten what it means to be truly thankful?

Spreading out our thanks so willy nilly (who was a nice guy and doesn’t deserve his name being drug through the mud) only cheapens them. We all want to be appreciated and thank you should affirm that, but how do we convince someone it does when it’s become a mere social convention like hello or goodbye or aloha? And why do we do it? Are we trying to avoid true thankfulness, thinking that if we’re really thankful we somehow owe the person something now?

My late grandfather said often, “Much obliged” which is the shortened form of much obligated. I think he knew how to accept help and to take assistance. I also know from observation that the man knew what it meant to give it. I believe that in his day and in a rural setting community was a necessity. Perhaps today we’re missing a willingness to be in a friendly, neighborly relationship where give and take is freely experienced. Maybe we’re all a little too worried about keeping score. The fact is no one rises to the top without owing a debt of gratitude or two along the way. There comes a time where, in order to move forward, we need the help of others. Funny that many recognize the necessity to delegate and still resist while others do so and fail to acknowledge the help they’ve received in essence refusing to say thank you. So what are we to do with “Thank You” assuming we are truly sincere and comfortable being indebted to another? I think the question might be fairly simple: time.

Taking the time to verbalize what has been done for you and what it meant carries so much more weight than the throwaway version. To verbalize that someone’s caring, or kindness or thoughtfulness meant something to us does matter. It’s us putting forth the effort to recognize another’s effort. Saying why you’re thankful to that other person acknowledges the ledger is fuller on their side, of course, but it also acknowledges that because of their efforts the relationship you share is deeper, stronger and more intimate. Some may disagree but I for one think that these types of relationships give my life a richness that doesn’t exist when I castoff the errant “thank you”.

So the next time someone does you a good turn or service say “Thank you” and mean it. Look them in the eye and tell them their efforts are appreciated and why. And don’t be surprised to see them taken aback or almost shocked. After all you’ve just resurrected “Thank You” from the dead.

I hope you enjoyed this little examination of two little overused words that often don’t get their due. If you know someone that might find this interesting or needs to re-think their use of the phrase, please share this with them.

If you got this from a friend that subscribes to my blog perhaps you would like to also. Subscribing is free and easy, just click here. You’ll get a short email every Saturday with links to the week’s posts and don’t worry I don’t share or sell emails so you won’t get a bunch of junk.

Maybe you would like to read more? If so, great, click this and you’ll go to the home page of my blog.