Mom, you taught me to say "thank you" when I was a young child. Why do you have to teach this to adults?
My son asked me that question after listening to one of my speeches. It was an interesting question, since I assume most parents teach their children to say "thank you" in appropriate situations. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced, 24/7 world, it’s easy to forget this little nicety.
When you convey thanks, you are acknowledging the kindness/thoughtfulness/helpfulness shown to you by another person. There is no downside to this courtesy. Here are four situations when a "thank you" is appropriate.
1. Use “thanks” as a closing in your emails. Writing “thanks” or “thank you” is a quick and an effective way to acknowledge someone's effort. When texting, you can use the shortcut “thx,” if appropriate.
2. Wave “thanks” to the driver of a car that lets you into a line of traffic. My husband says that men wave; women, all too frequently, don’t. I hate to admit it, but he may be right. One colleague said she doesn’t wave to men because she doesn’t want the action viewed as flirtatious. Most drivers see the wave as an acknowledgement of their kindness. Kindness begets kindness. One driver lets you into the line; you let someone else in; that person may extend the courtesy to a third driver. We all end up with an easier commute.
3. Say “thank you” if someone holds the door for you. It’s rude not to acknowledge this considerate act. People have told me that when someone doesn’t express thanks, they will sarcastically say “You’re welcome.” I don't recommend this response.
4. Write thank-you notes when someone helps you, gives you a gift, or goes out of his or her way for you. Expressing your appreciation in a note is preferable to verbally thanking someone, since you have taken the time to write. The note can be handwritten or emailed.
Recently, a young woman I met for coffee wrote: I am so thankful for all the time you spent with me and the help you have given me to begin my future. I would certainly help her again.
An eight-year-old boy wrote to his grandparents: Thank you so much for all the fun stuff we did in Florida. I had a blast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He knows the power of "thank you." They are already planning their next trip.
Additional information on polite behavior can be found in my new etiquette book, GREET! EAT! TWEET!