We say thank you all the time. That sentiment has a direct translation in over 450 languages around the world. Some people even sign their emails with Thanks, So-and-so. But how often do we really mean it? I mean REALLY. I’m a little obsessed with authenticity. Sure, I’m guilty of routine, blasé, meaningless interactions at times. I’d be even more of a hypocrite if I didn’t fess up to it. Even so, in a world where any piece of information we want is waiting in our pockets, along with the credit cards that promise to buy all the stuff, necessary and frivolous, that just “screams” us, meaning is often missing.
Saying thank you, for me, is a sign of respect, an awareness of the sacrifice that someone made. It means that you care deeply about the effort, contribution, existence of the other. My daily encounters with “thank you” make it seem like less of an expression of gratitude and more of an acknowledgement with a dash of courtesy. I sent a document, you said thanks. She filled me in on a situation, I said thanks. Yet how do we navigate through these micro-interactions, show appreciation for all the little things people do for us, if not to say thank you? We mean it. At some level.
There are a couple of other things to consider, though I loathe to admit it. Not everyone has the same point of view on various facets of human interaction, such as gratitude. It’s NOT that big a deal for some people. Also, we’re evolving as a society. I can see the necessity for a superficial acknowledgement as well as visceral, bone-deep heartfelt gratitude. Perhaps, on some level, we know the difference between the two. And perhaps the least effective thing to do is regulate communication down to the minutia. That’s a difficult thing for me. We all use language, and we “should” all use it the same way to avoid confusion. More speculation, but this might have more to do with not trusting my interpretation of intent and less to do with rampant abuses of meaning. I do feel things down to my bones, and generally I am that person who doesn’t say what she doesn’t mean, and means what she says. But looking at others through the filter of how I work is not only folly, it’s inauthentic.