Recently, we were discussing whether you could go overboard with thanking someone…
Jaya: Okay so the question is, is there ever a time where a thank you note is not appropriate or too much?
We’re always harping on how thank you notes are so great, but they do have a tendency to be Very Official and that can be weird for certain things
Victoria: That’s true. I think thank you notes can be weird for monumental gifts and services…like, they are so small in comparison, that they seem silly? Although, I guess, when my grandmother sent me my inheritance early, I think I sent a note but also called her (for me, calling her is a supreme gesture since we just…don’t talk on the phone).
Jaya: That’s a good point! Yeah, I think with large, generous gestures, especially with family, a phone call or in person thank you seems more meaningful. Like, I sent thank you notes to people who got me bowls for my wedding. This should be different than that.
Victoria: Haha yeah, exactly. And like, even aside from money gifts, like say someone came and stayed with you when you were sick for a period of time, or something. like…a thank you note is just not enough. And really, you aren’t GOING to be able to even really thank them in a way that is meaningful enough for what you received from them. Other than to sincerely thank them when it is occurring and hopefully be willing to do something similar for them.
Jaya: Right. I think that’s key, that this is all in service of conveying a deep emotion, which is a hard thing to make tangible. But to me, someone looking into my eyes and thanking me for something is always going to FEEL nicer than a note.
Victoria: Exactly. I like notes for wedding presents and stuff because it feels very formal for a formal exchange. But its very rote.
Jaya: Though, you bring up that nothing will ever be enough, which brings me to another pet peeve–people who will not stop thanking.
Victoria: Ughhh yeah, it’s very embarrassing.
Jaya: It seems like they understand that a note or a phone call is not enough, but try to make up for that by bringing it up all the time.
Victoria: Just be cool everyone.
Victoria: No, I am serious though. It’s the same with taking compliments.
Victoria: Really and seriously try to bite your tongue and just say thank you the once.
Jaya: I mean, if anything, it just unnecessarily raises the bar. Then it makes people who only get one thank you from someone feel like that is somehow inadequate or in-genuine.
Victoria: That’s true.
Jaya: And also, I think it’s almost like saying “I’m sorry.” You’re not doing this to come off as a good person, you’re doing this to convey a specific feeling for the benefit of someone else. So just like, be sincere in your thanks and you won’t have to do it more than once.
Victoria: Agreed. Although, I think it can come up naturally sometimes- like with the Hamilton thing (ED: Jaya chipped in with a ton of people for Hamilton tickets for Victoria’s birthday), yeah, I thanked you guys at the time (and tried to thank everyone individually, in person) but then also specifically mentioned it when posting about it when it happened, and a few times when mentioning it to other people. But that feels organic, I guess?
Jaya: Oh totally. I’m not saying it has to be a hard and fast rule of ONE THANK YOU AND THAT’S IT. I think you nailed it, when it feels organic that’s fine. Instead of it coming out of an anxiety that you haven’t done enough.
Victoria: Haha yeah. I mean, I think the giver can feel the difference between joy and anxiety? Hence the be cool thing. When in doubt, say thank you once.
Jaya: Probably. Nobody is as smooth as they think they are, so if they send a note and call and bring it up twice in person, the giver is probably like “okay but you can chill now.”
Victoria: Hahaha I am smooth. But yeah, agreed.
Jaya: Well of course YOU’RE smooth. We’re talking about people without an extensive glove collection here.
Victoria: I am available for lessons for the low low price of $50 an hour, LOL.
Jaya: hahahahaha. Lessons on how to own gloves and thank people effectively, call Victoria.
Last weekend, Jaya and I were bridesmaids in a college friend’s wedding. It was the first time I have been a bridesmaid, and it occurred to me that being a bridesmaid is a lot like being in a sorority (the bride happened to have been one of my sorority sisters). So these are the ways that being in a sorority prepares you to be a bridesmaid:
You are accustomed to wearing matching outfits (including teeshirts for the bachelorette).
You are used to walking and standing in heels for many hours.
You don’t blink at the suggestion to wear Spanx and/or pantyhose.
You are comfortable with all women events (for the shower, bachelorette, and getting ready the day of)
You know the value of a kit full of emergency supplies such as bandaids, medicine, Tide pens, sewing kits etc from long days of recruitment parties.
You know how to express extreme enthusiasm for EVERYTHING.
You are used to posing for group pictures.
You know how to deal with drama.
You can make conversation with people you have never met (people really like to talk to bridesmaids for some reason.)
You can (hopefully) hold your liquor and not embarrass yourself.
You know all the words to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”
You can stay out on the dance floor for hours.
You are good at crafts (if necessary to help the bride DIY).
Theme parties make you happy.
Not all of these are unique to sorority women, of course, but there is an alarming amount of overlap, don’t you think?
As we’ve established, planning a party is hard. No, it’s not hard to say BYOB and order a few pizzas, but when it comes to any parties larger than that–dinner parties, holiday parties, weddings–there are a lot of moving pieces. There are guest lists and menus and seating arrangements and invitations and possibly staff, all weighed against the ultimate stress of any party: money. So every party, generally, is a balance of all those things. It’s an experience that makes the most people possible happy without the hosts going broke.
This means that, sometimes, there are minor disappointments, though I hesitate to call them that because no reasonable person would be disappointed. If there’s only beer and wine instead of a full liquor bar? Fine! One dessert instead of a dessert buffet? Whatever! Plastic cups instead of glass ones? What is your life that this is even registering as a problem?!
Which brings me to an incredibly unreasonable person I encountered at a recent wedding. The wedding was beautiful, and featured heavy passed appetizers and a buffet with many, many options. There were plentiful tables, couches and bar tops, though apparently the deal was that, while there were enough surfaces for everyone to eat at, some people were to be left standing. Again, just fine! You take 20 minutes to eat on a bar top and sit on a bench later and everyone has a grand time. Well, that wasn’t the case for one guest, who I overheard on line for the amazing mac & cheese. She would not stop talking about how there weren’t enough chairs. As if that weren’t bad enough, the father of the groom came over and joked about cutting the line for food (as he is the father of the groom). She said no, because they were mad at him that there weren’t enough chairs. He looked incredibly apologetic and sort of slinked away.
You can probably tell I was horrified. It’s fine to privately notice, and maybe even complain to a close friend, that you wish things were one way and they are in fact another. We do this every day. But let’s just make it clear that a situation like this is no one’s fault. Nothing was done wrong. Things were just one way and this woman didn’t like that. Recognizing that herself is one thing, but complaining to the host is entirely another. Just…just don’t do this? Okay? Good.
We’ve already covered the importance of an apology. That’s not exactly a controversial stance. We all recognize apologizing is a good skill! However, in my opinion, a bad apology is almost as bad as none at all, and boy are there a lot of people giving bad apologies. I’ve noticed a few phrases that are commonly used in apologies, but that don’t really do much to convey you’re actually sorry. Here are some to avoid:
“I didn’t do something to upset you, did I?” This and variations of this phrasing presumes the asker did nothing wrong, and puts the askee in an accusatory position. Either they have to say “no, it’s fine” (and anyone who is bad at confrontation knows how easy it is to say it’s fine when it’s not) or do the hard job of spelling out exactly why they are upset. It would be great if everyone was better at that, but most of us don’t like being so explicit because we don’t want to hurt feelings. So if you did something wrong and notice you upset someone, own up to it. Say “I’m sorry I upset you” or “What I said was disrespectful and I apologize,” or something equally explicit. And if you genuinely don’t know what you did, admit you don’t know and ask why.
“I’m sorry you’re offended/if it came off that way.” Phrasing like this is what you see every time a celebrity offers a half-hearted apologetic press release after telling a racist joke, and it’s easy to see right through it. It conveys you’re not actually sorry about what you said or did, just that someone else reacted badly to it. Misinterpretations happen, but not nearly as often as this phrase is utilized. Instead, apologize for the actual action, like “I’m sorry I said [X], I understand now how offensive it is.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.” This is a tricky one. Sometimes an explanation as to why you did the thing you’re apologizing for is necessary, and it’ll turn out to have all been a misunderstanding. But often explaining why you did or said something that upset someone just makes it seem like you’re trying to avoid blame. It doesn’t matter whether you meant to be mean or whether you thought you were being funny if what you said hurt someone. Instead, elaborate on that initial phrase by saying something like “I didn’t mean it, but I know that’s no excuse, and I’m genuinely sorry I upset you.”
Apologizing when you’re not sorry. Maybe you’re not actually sorry for what you did, and are only apologizing to try to smooth things over. The point of an apology is that you mean it, so just saying “sorry” when you’re not isn’t worth it to anyone. Instead, try to see if there’s a way to smooth things over in a way that doesn’t involve an apology. Did you get into a fight about politics? Say “I know we may not agree on this issue, but I want you to know I still care for you and respect you, and I’ll try not to bring it up again.” Is someone trying to make you apologize for something you don’t feel sorry for? Say “I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong, but I want to understand why you’re upset.”
“Am I forgiven now?” Apologies are not transactional. You do not give one for immediate absolution, you give one for the benefit of the aggrieved party. Asking whether or not you’re forgiven forces the hand of the person you’re asking, because let’s face it, saying “no, you’re not forgiven yet” sounds mean. Instead, well, don’t say anything. If you’ve apologized you’ve done what you can, and it’s up to the person you hurt to decide if and when you’re on good terms again.
You know, usually Portlandia’s jokes are a major exaggeration of reality (obviously this is the point of the show!), but in one particular episode they hit the nail right on the head- the coffee shop manifesto. Now of course, baristas are not getting together in a dramatically lit room to yell about etiquette rules for coffee shops. But maybe they should and everyone would behave better. Here is what they came up with (they only get through a couple in the dialogue and the rest is posted by the counter later:
1. Cell phones are not to be used or the coffee will be abused.
2. Unattended children will be given an espresso and a puppy.
3. Know what you want before approaching the counter, no questions should be asked. (Ed: This is especially timely as I had to wait several minutes to make my Friday doughnut purchase at my super bougie doughnut place this week because a pair of tourists had to ask the counter person about EVERY.SINGLE.FLAVOR. of doughnut and what they personally recommended. Yes, first world problems, I know.)
4. The coffee is never too hot. You spilled, get over it.
5. Whipped cream is for kids. Foam is for adults.
6. Take your headphones off when ordering.
7. Don’t ask me what’s playing right now. We are a coffee shop, not a record store.
8. Do not ask me what’s good. It’s all good.
9. It’s espresso, not expresso.
10. I don’t know what the WiFi password is. Don’t ask.
11. Open your mouth! Also shut up! Get out!
13. Bus your own table. We are not a restaurant.
14. This is not a hangout shut your mouth.