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Waiting to be thanked?

I recently overheard Anne's brother asking if she had heard from someone he knew she had helped. When Anne said she had not heard from her, and didn't expect to, her brother was surprised.


Anne explained:

"Adalynn did not ask me to do that for her, I did it because I wanted to. So she is not obliged to thank me."

While Anne herself is quite meticulous about sending thank you notes, in the past, I know she has felt hurt and disappointed when she was not thanked for her ‘good deeds.’


After some mindful consideration, Anne created a list of four questions to ask herself when she is feeling unappreciated. She has these questions written on her desk blotter as a reminder:

  1. Did they ask me for help? If yes, it is reasonable to expect to be thanked. If no, read on ...

  2. Did I ask them if they would like me to help? If yes and they said yes (i.e., gave you permission to help), it is reasonable to expect to be thanked. If no, read on ...

  3. Did I help them in the way that they asked me to? (or did I do something else probably because I thought knew better?) If you did as they asked, then yes you should be thanked. If no, read on ...

  4. Did I take this action to please myself? (e.g., I would want someone to do this for me in a similar situation?) If yes, there is no obligation for thanks.

Based on these four questions, we may NOT be entitled to appreciation, recognition, or thanks when we have:

  • Not been asked to help.

  • Not been given permission to help.

  • Helped in a way that is not wanted.

  • Helped others because it pleased us to do so.

That all made sense to me, but I did have one question for Anne, “What about when you send gifts for birthdays or other special occasions?”


Anne replied, “I do that because I want to because I think it is a nice thing to do.


"Remember, there are only two ways for others to let you know that they do not want you to do something: a – they can ask you not to, or b – neglect to thank you. And, in the case of gifts, there is also the option of returning them to you."

“When people do not thank me for gifts, I decide whether it pleases me to continue and if it doesn’t, then I stop. The only exception I make is for children whose mothers may have forgotten to mail me their thank you notes!”


We both laughed remembering the time when Anne received an oversized envelope in the mail; inside was a note of apology from her sister who had neglected to mail the children's thank you notes for several years!


I would love to know what you think about when and whether thank you notes are to be sent.


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Silence is a fence around wisdom.

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