No Thanks

[article]
Summary:
This title has two meanings. One is "no, thanks" as in "No, thanks; no more pizza." The other is "no thanks," as in you did someone a big favor and received in return not a single thank you. It's this second meaning I'm writing about. How good it feels to be thanked—preferably sooner rather than much, much later or not at all.

This title has two meanings. One is "no, thanks" as in "No, thanks; no more pizza." The other is "no thanks," as in you did someone a big favor and received in return not a single thank you. It's this second meaning I'm writing about. How good it feels to be thanked—preferably sooner rather than much, much later or not at all.

For example, several years ago a colleague asked me if I'd review the draft of her new book and offer some critique. I was happy to help. Unfortunately, although her basic message was solid, her writing was weak to the point of mushy. So I went through the manuscript and inserted numerous suggestions and comments. I sent it back to her. And then I waited. And waited. And . . . Not a word. I could have contacted her, but I was curious whether I'd ever hear from her again unprompted.

Fifteen months later, a package arrived in the mail. It was an autographed copy of what was now a very fine book. With it was a handwritten note in which she thanked me for all my help. And my name was listed in the acknowledgements. These were thoughtful gestures and I appreciated them, but I feel to this day that a more timely thank you was called for - a week or a month later, say, rather than 15 months.

This experience came to mind because I've been reflecting on the messages I occasionally receive from people asking for advice. I try to send at least a brief response. But when the issue is one I find interesting and I have the time, I respond at length.

People to whom I send these responses fall into one of three categories. The first category are the No Shows. I never hear from them again. Not a word. Though "never" may be unfair, since it's only been two years, three years, four years, so they may yet get back to me.

The second category are the Better Late Than Nevers. These people don't respond for months, often not till after they tried out my ideas and want to tell me how things turned out. At that point, they offer their thanks and appreciation. I like hearing from them. Trouble is, given the time that's passed, I had no way of knowing that I would eventually hear from them. Couldn't they have sent an immediate "thanks and I'll be in touch"?

I've often considered just not responding to these requests. If people don't appreciate my efforts, am I a fool to even bother? But then there's the third category, the Thank You Thank You Thank Yous. These people do respond. Within a short time, I hear back. And they're grateful. They're appreciative. They're thankful.

These people make it all worthwhile.

Who is waiting for a thank you from you?

User Comments

4 comments
andreachiou's picture

Surprisingly, something I learned only this year is that I did not know how to say 'You are welcome'. I had a nasty habit of belittling the effort I had put in that caused the Thank You. I might say, it was nothing. Or: I didn't do anything. I might say, No Problem (as if helping could ever be a problem...). The key is only help when you truly want to and let go of the result! Also, learn how to say no to requests when you don't have time so you don't resent the person later for not saying Thank you when you went out of your way.

What I have found now is that saying You are Welcome to the person giving the Thanks (yes, whenever they end up doing it) is much more satisfying. I usually add the reason: I enjoyed helping you out because: x,y,z ...

August 13, 2012 - 10:38am
Naomi Karten's picture

Andrea, at the risk of appearing to be testing you, thank you for your valuable addition to this post. I hadn't even thought about the "You're welcome" side of the issue. "Oh, it was nothing" and "No problem" have become such automatic responses that most recipients of these responses probably don't pay much attention to it. But it's so much more thoughtful to offer "You're welcome" or, as I often say, "You're very welcome." or "My pleasure" -- there are probably many other possibilities.

I especially like your idea of giving the reason you helped (or liked helping) the person. That, in fact, could become contagious -- if enough people hear others not only respond to their thank you with "You're welcome" but also hear an explanation, maybe there'd be a whole lot more thanking taking place. I'm going to put this into practice pronto!

So thanks!! "-)

~Naomi

August 14, 2012 - 8:12am
Trevor Wolter's picture

You ask the question, "If people don't appreciate my efforts, am I a fool to even bother?". My simple reply is a resolute no, you are not a fool. We don't do nice things for others because we want accolades but rather because we're nice. That's not to say that denying a request is is being mean because sometimes we are simply unable to fulfill another's request. Offering assistance to someone is like giving a gift. The very definition of a gift is that it is conveyed without condition--even that of a thank you. Once given, it is entirely up to the recipient to decide how to use the assistance or how to respond.

Performing an act of kindness and offering a prompt expression of gratitude are both rooted in the same core value of politeness. If someone is impolite as to not offer a prompt thank you, they have broken the "politeness bond" and I would have not pangs of conscience denying further requests for help from that person. However, I wouldn't let one rude person keep me from being polite to other people and helping them out when asked.

August 13, 2012 - 7:24pm
Naomi Karten's picture

Trevor, thank you! You expressed the issue beautifully and I especially like "The very definition of a gift is that it is conveyed without condition--even that of a thank you."

Of course, it's not exactly a gift when someone explicitly asks for help. I think of it more as a favor. And I certainly wouldn't let one rude person keep me from helping others. But there have been many such instances over the years, the most recent just a couple of weeks ago.

I have no problem saying no when I can't or don't want to help. But reading and rereading your comment (and Andrea's as well) makes me rethink that the problem is me. I need to help when I want to and not expect anything in return. Then if a thank you follows, whether in the near term or long term, well, all the better. This is a valuable reframe for me, and perhaps for others as well.

In the meantime, I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if there was a whole lot more thanking and appreciating of each other going on.

~Naomi

August 13, 2012 - 8:30pm

About the author

Naomi Karten's picture Naomi Karten

Naomi Karten is a highly experienced speaker and seminar leader who draws from her psychology and IT backgrounds to help organizations improve customer satisfaction, manage change, and strengthen teamwork. She has delivered seminars and keynotes to more than 100,000 people internationally. Naomi's newest books are Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals and Changing How You Manage and Communicate Change. Her other books and ebooks include Managing Expectations, Communication Gaps and How to Close Them, and How to Survive, Excel and Advance as an Introvert. Readers have described her newsletter, Perceptions & Realities, as lively, informative, and a breath of fresh air. She is a regular columnist for StickyMinds.com. When not working, Naomi's passion is skiing deep powder. Contact her at naomi@nkarten.com or via her Web site, www.nkarten.com.

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