Thanking people

A woman wrote to the Washington Post on May 21,2017 complaining about a daughter-in-law who never thanked anyone for gifts, for meals, indeed, for anything. Carolyn Hax, who writes an agony column for the Post, replied in part that her lack of manners hurt the daughter-in-law more than it hurts the giver. “A glaring social deficit like this will compromise her with almost everyone who experiences it”.

This woman was almost certainly never taught courtesy by her parents. It is a delight to meet a courteous young person who thanks you snd shows respect and courtesy to everyone, old, young and of every race and creed. It does a child no favours to skip the dull and frustrating business of drilling manners into small children, tiresome as the process is.

Oh, the tedium of being made to write “thank you” letters as a child! Oh, the smouldering resentment, when young, of having to thank some distant relatives when you never wanted to visit them in the first place and were bored beyond endurance! But then it becomes normal. Indeed one feels uncomfortable if you don’t send those polite thanks. And you notice when others fail to thank you for your own generosity. A habit? Yes, but an excellent one.

I suggest that manners, Epicurean behaviour that greases the wheels of social life, may be being ignored by both parents working full time outside the home. Are they returning home tired in the evening? Are they expecting that schools will do the jobs that should be done by parents, e.g civilising a child? I know really smart, capable parents who are bringing up stellar kids. But as for the others, how do we persuade them that even such a simple thing as saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is a sign that you have joined centuries-long cohorts of people who understand how to win friends and influence others, the bedrock of our social system?