The fine art of gratitude

November 5, 2010

Allowing an unimportant mistake
to pass without comment
is a wonderful social grace.
-Miss Manners

‘Tis the season for those gosh-awful scarves that you’ll never wear, ties that scream outdated and coffee-table books that will sit uncracked, collecting dust.

‘Tis the season for grandmothers and great-aunts to tsk-tsk over thank-you notes not received and “where did manners go, anyway, and aren’t kids today the worse for not learning social graces?”

Here’s a thank-you note we received once after sending a wine and goodies basket:

“I am on a restricted diet, but the wine will come in handy for holiday entertaining.”

A restricted diet?
So we asked the spouse if something was wrong.

“Oh, s/he was being kind.
You sent white. S/he only drinks dry reds.”

This is what the tart Miss Manners would say about that.

“That is an interesting definition of kind. But let’s go with it. A thank-you note is meant to acknowledge the thought behind the gift. It is never mean-spirited. When your mother-in-law gives you that Christmas sweater you wouldn’t be caught dead in, you don’t have to say you’ll wear it, or even that you like it. The appropriate response is ‘Thank you so much for the festive sweater. The colors are perfect for the holiday season. Thank you for being so thoughtful.’ It is not ‘I don’t wear sweaters and will be re-gifting it at Christmas.’ In this case, a courteous response would have said something like this: ‘I’ve put the wine in my wine cellar to be uncorked during holiday festivities. Thank you for thinking of me.’ There is no need for backhanded white lies. “

Someone I know is sending her young son to Cotillion, where he is learning proper etiquette and the courtesies of interacting with others. It’s such a wonderful thing to do for a kid, especially these days,when proper etiquette has gone by the wayside.

We can think of a few adults who could use a Cotillion of their own before the holidays.

10 comments on “The fine art of gratitude
  1. Agreed, Carol. The focus should be on gratitude for being thought of and not the thing itself. You and Miss Manners are so wise.

  2. Laura says:

    Oh my gosh those “thank you” notes were so horrifying I laughed out loud. “I’m on a restricted diet. . .”? Really?

    I don’t drink wine but if someone gives me a bottle of wine, I carefully store it in a cool dry place and take it with me to gatherings. But I don’t say: “Gee thanks for the gift I can’t enjoy because it gives me a headache. Next time save your money and just hit me in the head with something.”

  3. Mary says:

    What a great reminder. I still struggle with sending Thank you notes, but I’m getting better about it.

  4. Haralee says:

    Amen. Just a thoughtful thanks is it so difficult? I like a suggestion for kids gifts which I will comply but I like a thanks too.

  5. gertmcqueen says:

    It is amazing what happens when a simple ‘thank you’ is said…what that can do for the other person and what gift you receive.
    thank you for this wonderful reminder!

  6. So very true Carol! Thank you for reminding me before I say something during the holidays that is better left unsaid! 🙂

  7. “I am on a restricted diet, but the wine will come in handy for holiday entertaining.” Thats when the Southern phrase, “Well, bless your heart,” comes in handy! LOL

  8. Thank you for the timely reminder! I have been guilty of trying to redirect the gift giver. (My husband once bought me a bouquet of flowers, and I told him I preferred plants with roots. He was upset. My bad.) Great examples, for both good and bad responses.

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