Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Art of the Thank-You

My birthday is coming up, and I'm bound to get a few well-wishes, some cards, and maybe even a present or two. I've spent the first half of this year purchasing presents for my family members, and my birthday always wraps up the streak (until the fall).

It's easy to say "Thank you!" for a present - certainly we've all been taught to say "Thank you" since we were kids - but why is it nowadays that saying "Thank you" is so taboo?

I bought a very nice present for someone this year - someone whom I love very much and has done so much for me - and I was very surprised at the response. Instead of a "Thank you!" I got a "You didn't have to give me THAT much."

And I was really surprised. And a little hurt, too.

Why did the amount of the present make such a big effect? It's not like this present was for some random person that I didn't know very well. Instead, this was given out of appreciation for years of service to me.

Most of my family and friends now have families of their own - they're married or married with kids. This means they have to put a lot more of their time and money back to themselves. Do I have a problem with this? Not at all! It's taken me time, but I understand this better now.

I myself am looking out for one person: me. (Well, one person and a cat who is pretty independent.) I don't need to pay for my immediate family because I don't have one. This means I have a little more money to use for the people I love and care about.

Do they think I'm insulting them by "flaunting" my gifts to them around? That's certainly not my intention. This is my way of saying "Thank you." Thank you for sticking with me even when I'm a jerk. Thank you for appreciating my weirdness. Thank you for supporting my ideas, whether brilliant or stupid. Thank you for loving me. Over the years I've discovered what an introvert I am. Sometimes I don't say "Thank you." Instead I give.

But when I give, I do love the "Thank you." Sometimes it's a text or Facebook message for something just received in the mail. Sometimes it's a card a few weeks later after a party. Sometimes it's just the reaction of the face that says it. It doesn't even need to be the actual words!

The more I look around, the more I see people who think that they're being modest by saying "Oh you didn't have to do THAT" or "That's so expensive" or "I don't deserve this." But that just makes the giver feel uncomfortable. They certainly thought it was the right gift to give - a physical present, money, or an act of kindness. They weren't worried about who deserved the gift - they just knew that they wanted to give it!

I have done those reactions before. To my credit, whoever gave me those gifts didn't call me out on what I said. If they did anything, they waited and confronted me after everyone else was gone. Nowadays, I try to show a thankful face whenever I can - I've been doing a lot of maturing over the past seven years. I can still fall into those traps, but I'm more aware of it now.

So if you receive a present - whether on an expected occasion or unexpected - know that the person giving the gift appreciates you and wants to show their appreciation in a special way. It could be a gift card, or it could be a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts (like my faculty received this morning from a parent). Any way the appreciation comes, look the giver square in the face, give them the biggest smile, and say "Thank you."

Those two words are more important than you may think.

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