When they don’t say “thank you”

Thank you!You’re generous.

They don’t say “thank you.”

It’s a slap in the face. Why, you might think, did I even bother?

And it’s hard to retain a sense of connection with your feelings of generosity, never mind your sense of connection with the other person.  How, you might think, can they be so rude and ungrateful?

In the end, you have three basic choices for what to do.

1. You can suck it up and say nothing

Just how upset are you? And is your upset based in the present-day situation, or does it reflect historical incidents that could be causing you to over-react?

If you’re dealing with someone you only encounter occasionally, or if you think you might be bringing some old baggage into the situation, saying nothing might be your best option – especially if you can take this opportunity to explore whether it’s time to let go of past hurt and frustration so you can enter into present-day situations with greater clarity.

2. You can be curious

We can’t know what’s happening for other people. We don’t know what their expectations were; we don’t know what else might be going on in their lives; we don’t know if they simply have a hard time receiving.

Be curious and simply say, “Hey – I feel like something got missed here – I don’t recall hearing you say ‘thanks’ for what I gave you.”

It’s awkward, to be sure. But if you’re upset, it’s better to bring it out into the open. Otherwise, your resentment and hurt will have a decidedly negative impact on your relationship!

3. You can be angry

Especially if you feel like you were particularly generous, or generous in a situation where it wasn’t required of you (it wasn’t a family expectation for birthday or holiday giving, for instance), your anger, frustration, and hurt feelings are perfectly understandable and possibly even justifiable.

However, getting overtly angry – or swearing never to give that person anything ever again – isn’t going to help heal the relationship.

Instead, notice that there were two separate actions taken by two separate people.

First action: you gave someone something.

Second action: they received what you gave them.

If you can separate your generous action from their unresponsiveness, you can retain the warm feelings you experienced in giving … even though you might still be surprised and unhappy about their lack of gratitude.

Which choice would you take?

I’m sure it’s obvious that my recommendation, in most cases, would be #2.

(The exception would be to choose #1 if it’s (a) someone who habitually behaves this way and you know they’re not going to change – family members might fall into this category!, or (b) someone you don’t have that much contact with. There’s more to be said about (a), but that’s for another time and another post!)

It’s awkward to have that difficult conversation. But having the conversation with care and empathy clears the air, restores connection, and makes space for the relationship to grow … instead of leaving a trail of tension, frustration, and resentment.

And you might learn that you actually did miss their expression of gratitude. Perhaps it was timed differently than you expected. Or maybe they were so overwhelmed they didn’t know how to thank you – or they might have hand-written a grateful note they were just about to give you.

(All three of those examples come from recent client experiences. This isn’t just me being positive!)