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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The lost art of ...

My freshman year of high school I signed with a talent agency. I was thin, leggy, and although I would never have the height needed to be a super model my features were striking enough that the agency thought I would do well in photo work or acting. It never went anywhere, but one of the things drilled into me on Tuesday nights between flounces down the catwalk was that I needed to be polite. The industry was small. People talked. Being polite opened doors.

Before my first job interview my agent pulled me aside and asked me if I had a thank you letter written. He patiently explained that no matter what - no matter how awful the interview went - I was to send a thank you card. The card was written and addressed before the interview, and I mailed it on the way out of the building.

There were a few cases in my struggling college-student days where that made a difference. I was hired because the thank you card arrived a few days after the interview and that was enough to boost me to the front of the line.

Now, in the digital age where an email can be ripped off in ten seconds flat, gratitude still matters.

A few years ago I was in a unique situation where someone I knew needed help I was able to offer. I didn't make a big deal of it, but I did what I could whenever I could. Once or twice turned into regular help over a period of several months and I never heard a thank you. When I hit my own set back and wasn't able to help this friend, that's when I heard about it. An angry phone call quickly let me know that what I'd done out of neighborly kindness and an attempt at Southern Hospitality had been accepted as something owed this person. I had something they wanted, so I should give it to them. It was like getting a phone call from Gollum. It was the effort to do good met with no gratitude and a heavy dose of entitlement.

Entitlement kills marriages, friendships, and careers.

No one owes you a job. It doesn't matter what degree you have or how hard you work, that job does not have your name on it.

No one owes you love. They will love you and care for you if they want to, but they don't owe you love and they won't love you if that affection is returned with cool indifference or raging demands.

No one owes you a friendship. You are not entitled to the adoration of everyone you meet. And even if you are sparkling light of a person, not everyone will like you. That's life. It isn't fair.

It doesn't matter whether it's a job interview or time spent with a friend, say thank you. Let them know you appreciate the time spent, the feedback given, and the energy expended on your behalf. Maybe the feedback isn't helpful. Maybe you didn't get the job. It doesn't matter. Be grateful.

It doesn't matter if you worked your butt off earning what you have, be grateful. Hard work does wonders, but not miracles. Everything you have is because somewhere along the way hard work ran into luck and the universe worked in your favor. I can introduce you to millions of people whose hard work never got them that promotion, or book deal, or wonderful relationship.

Be grateful for what you have. Say thank you. Because no matter what industry you're in, it's a small world and people remember the thank you.


  1. My mom would have killed me if I ever forgot to say "Thank you" and "You're welcome" as well as "Please". Manners were very important to her. Even now I have to remind hubby to say "please" when he asks for something. Saying "Thank you" when someone does something for me, even so simple a thing as moving aside if they are standing someplace where I am about to walk past, is second nature by now. I don't expect things to be handed to me so it's nice when someone does something and it's my obligation to thank them for it.

    I like your analogy to Gollum. I think I will steal it for the next person who thinks they are entitled to everything without being grateful.

    Thank you. :)

    1. Please and thank you are habit at home. It makes life so much easier because "Please, do this chore." has an element of respect that even children notice. It lets them know it is a choice, and that this choice will make people happy if they choose it.

      I'm very tempted to do my Gollum impression on the next person who demands things from me.

  2. Oh my gosh, this is so true. It's something my mother always taught me as well. Manners are the mark of a professional. Bravo for this post.