Failing to acknowledge a favor or a courtesy is a triple mistake, and it’s becoming more common. ChatGPT is now promoting the idea that it can write a thank you note for you, and a text is a lot easier than a handwritten note, and yet, the level of ‘thank you’ seems to be falling.
It’s not that people don’t have the time to offer an honest ‘thank you’. It’s that they don’t want to acknowledge the obligation or connection.
Minimizing a favor is an easy way to stay focused on the noise in our own heads, as opposed to realizing that we’re surrounded by other people.
Hustle culture has discovered that ‘asking for a favor’ often triggers a positive response. This effort on the part of the other person happens because the favor-giver is seeking connection. When the recipient minimizes the favor or fails to say thank you, they create distance, not connection.
The fact that an expression of gratitude requires so little effort makes it even more striking.
To pick a tiny example, if someone lets you into the flow of traffic, a small nod or hand wave costs nothing. But sometimes it feels easier to assert that it was yours to take, as opposed to a kind gesture that you received.
Our failure to take a moment to acknowledge the favor also makes it harder for the next person. If connection isn’t on offer, why not be selfish?
Civility fades in the face of entitlement.
The magic of an honest expression of gratitude is that the person saying thank you might benefit from it as much as the recipient.