Not thanking people where you ought to is considered rude.
But why some don’t thank?
Because some don’t know how to thank. They don’t know what expressions to say. (Covered in section 2 in the post)
Some aren’t sure if they should thank in a particular situation. (Covered in section 1 in the post)
And, third, some just never thank. (Before you mistake such people as rude or uncivilized, I should clarify that majority of them aren’t. In their social milieu, they’ve rarely heard or said the traditional ‘thank you’ or ‘thanks’, and therefore they’re not used to it. They’ve their own way of expressing gratitude, sometimes just through facial expressions. I can say this because I’ve come across quite a few of them.)
In this post, I’ll cover:
When to thank? (Some people don’t think certain situations warrant thanking.)
How to thank?
How to respond to someone’s thanks?
Let’s start with the first.
(Note: my comments that go with examples are enclosed in square brackets.)
1. When to thank?
People thank when someone does something for them.
You thank when someone passes a book on to you on your request.
You thank when someone gifts you.
You thank when someone helps you in your work.
People rarely have second thoughts on thanking the other person in such situations. But some don’t thank in situations such as these.
1.1 Someone asks your (or your close ones’) wellbeing, weekend, holiday, etc.
X: How was your weekend?
Y: Good. Thank you. How was yours?
X: How is your mother doing now?
Y: She is better now. Thank you. [You, of course, can’t ask, how is your mother doing.]
X: Did your son get admission in the school you were trying?
Y: No, he didn’t. Anyway, thanks for asking. [Or just ‘Thank you’]
X: How did your business trip go?
Y: The work got done. Thank you.
1.2 Someone offers you something even if you don’t need it
X: I’m going to the cafeteria. Should I get a cup of coffee for you?
Y: No, I’m good. Thank you. [Even though Y didn’t want coffee at that time, he still thanked X for asking.]
X: You can take a seat there. [X points out to a seat that just got vacant in a metro train]
Y: I prefer standing. Thank you.
1.3 Someone responds to your query even if you aren’t satisfied with the answer
X: Where is the post office?
Y: I’ve no idea.
X: OK. Thank you.
1.4 Someone compliments you
On receiving a compliment, some get overly flattered, start blushing as if they don’t deserve the compliment, and display unnecessary humility:
X: You’re looking gorgeous.
Y: Oh, it’s just that the dress is great. Nothing much.
X: You got such awesome marks in the mid-term test.
Y: I guess it’s a result of the time I spent studying since the start of the semester.
In both these situations, Y should thank X, followed by whatever s/he wants to say.
1.5 Someone lower on social hierarchy or power equation does something for you
It’s bad not to thank people just because they’re few notches below on social hierarchy or power equation. One should thank others irrespective of their social and economic status. So, next time an office boy brings tea for you, thank him. A doorman opens the door for you, thank him.
Don’t be stingy in thanking people. By thanking others often enough, you’ll build stronger bonds with them.
2. How to thank?
I won’t flood this section with dozens of ways to thank people, lest you get overwhelmed and not use even the basic ones. If you know just few, you’ll cover more or less the entire thanking universe.
2.1 Thanking people in informal, friendly setting
When thanking friends, colleagues, family members, or even strangers in a friendly tone, you may use:
Thanks a lot
Thanks so much
(The second and third expressions show a higher degree of gratitude.)
These are the expressions you use in everyday life.
X: Can you pass that book, please?
(Y passes the book.)
(Y gifts X on her birthday.)
X: This is lovely. Thanks so much for the gift.
(Y drops off X at her home.)
X: Thanks a lot for the ride back home.
However, avoid these expressions:
Thanks a ton
Thanks a million
You won’t be wrong if you use them to thank people, but they look cheesy and artificial.
2.2 Thanking people in formal setting
When thanking senior people in your organization in a formal setting or thanking elders, you may use:
Thank you very much
Thank you so much
(The last two expressions show a higher degree of gratitude.)
These expressions are usually followed by the purpose for which you’re thanking.
Thank you for bringing the food.
Thank you so much for your help.
Thank you very much for the treat.
You can also use following expressions to thank others:
I can’t thank you enough
I don’t know how to thank you
I really appreciate it/ your help/ your time
You shouldn’t have
The first two expressions are used to thank someone when s/he has done something big for you. The last expression is used when someone brings something, say a gift, for you to say that they shouldn’t have taken the trouble to bring the gift. Follow it up with a ‘thank you’.
X: You’ve been such a great support while my mother was ill. I don’t know how to thank you.
X: Your support was crucial to finish the project in time. I can’t thank you enough.
X: I appreciate you supported me in my argument with that moron.
X: You shouldn’t have. Thank you. [The other person brought, say, a chocolate cake to X’s place. By using this expression, X says that the guest shouldn’t have taken the trouble to bring the cake and then goes on to thank her/ him.]
3. How to respond to someone’s thanks?
You can respond to a ‘thank you’ by saying:
It’s my pleasure, or
X: I can’t thank you enough for being such a help on this project.
Y: You’re welcome.
X: Thank you so much for joining us in this celebration.
Y: It’s my pleasure.
X: Thanks. [X thanks Y for passing the book.]
Y: You’re welcome.
The responses above are bit formal. If you’re with friends and family members, you can afford to be casual in your acknowledgement.
X: Thanks for delivering the box to my place.
Y: It’s all right.
X: You were such a help during the exams.
Y: Not at all.