Doyle-Schechtman: Thank You Notes

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(HOST) Now that all the presents have been opened, commentator Deborah Doyle-Schechtman reminds us that it’s time for one of our "less popular" holiday traditions.

(DOYLE-SCHECHTMAN) For most of us the holiday glitter has settled.  Festive ribbons and paper have either been tossed, or carefully stashed away for recycling next year. And those thoughts of sugarplums dancing in our heads – well – they’ve morphed into our mother’s voices reminding us that we have thank you notes to write.

Why does such a simple gesture cause such universal dread?  Is it because we can’t seem to grasp exactly how to acknowledge – with some modicum of sincerity – the seventh floral centerpiece, or the hand-knit chartreuse legwarmers?

Is it really so difficult to put pen to paper and say: Dear Grandma, Thank you so much for the legwarmers.  What an interesting color choice!  I certainly won’t be mistaken for a bear in the woods when hiking.  It was so kind of you to think of me.  Love…

Short.  Sweet.  Done.

Saying thank you for a gift, someone’s hospitality, a small favor or kindness is simply common courtesy.  

According to a survey conducted two years ago by The Emily Post Institute and merci® Chocolates, 87.3% of Americans are bothered when people don’t say thank you, and 90.2 % of us think we don’t say thank you enough.
So what’s the deal?  We hate it when it’s not done, but we tend not to do it ourselves?  If the phrase and its written expression are nothing more than respectful gestures that show we care, why is it so challenging for us to extend ourselves in these ways?

Perhaps we somehow construe that this social convention concedes dependence on another person, and we don’t want to be beholden. 

Maybe we feel undeserving of the attention, and if we don’t acknowledge it, we don’t have to deal with our uneasy emotions.

Then again, our decided lack of response could be, dare we admit, a retaliatory act for not getting exactly what we wanted, or expected. So there!

Yet, regardless of our motivations, and in spite of our seemingly collective reluctance, if we elect to mind our manners, respond we must.

According to the Institute’s website – and I quote – "All gifts should be acknowledged with a note, unless the goodies were opened in front of the giver – then you have the chance to thank them in person." 

Although the up-close-and-personal exchange might be the preferred approach for many, it too is fraught with its own set of challenges. One still has to find the right words, and the corresponding tone and body language to convey how tickled they are with their new chartreuse legwarmers when beaming Grandma is only a few feet away.

And beaming Grandma isn’t off the hook either. To indicate that all standards of social decorum have been met, it’s incumbent upon her to invoke the centuries-old, yet rapidly-fading idiom "You’re welcome."

In so doing, she not only acknowledges the articulated gratitude, but also indicates that there is no further obligation on the part of the recipient of her loving efforts.  Well, for this year at least!

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