Mr. Manners Says…

Published: September 8, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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In this e-mailing, BlackBerry, instant-messaging world, we seem to have forgotten something – the well-mannered tradition of a “Thank You” note.

“We just want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts…”  “As always, thanks so much for your hospitality and friendship…”  “Thanks for having us over…”

While the first two notes came from out-of-town friends, the last note came from friends about three blocks away… and it came by mail!

Nothing takes the place of a sincere “thank you.”  It’s the essence of gratitude.  It not only strengthens a relationship, but makes the recipient feel appreciated for their efforts.

I’m not talking about an “e-card”; those ubiquitous, pre-written, internet messages that seem to cover every conceivable occasion except a natural disaster.

(Mr. Manners says… “If you’re too busy to send a sincere, handwritten note, don’t bother with an e-card.”)

Among my early life experiences, I attended military school.  And among the classes I remember taking was “Etiquette.”  Once a month, a woman (a sort of traveling Emily Post) would show up to talk about and demonstrate all manner of proper manners.  I remember spending an hour practicing how to sit down at a table and eat dinner.

Everything was covered, from the proper way to pull out a chair and sit down to the proper direction the spoon moves while eating soup, (away from you).  No food was present, mind you; we would practice all of this in the absence of real food, but use real utensils and plates.  And, if we wanted an additional serving, we would have to say the magic words: “Excuse me, please pass the… (fill in the blank).”  Of course, when you received the desired bowl, the correct response was, “Thank You!”

At the time, I thought all of this was ridiculously formal and besides, nothing like this happened in real life at home.  I was wrong.  From the third grade on, I clearly remember being reminded to say things like “Please” and “Thank You,” “Excuse me” and “I’m sorry.”

(Mr. Manners says… “Nothing takes the place of ‘Excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’ whenever you’ve committed an error in judgment or propriety.”)

Good manners seem to be a lost art in today’s speeded-up, instant everything world.  But there is no instant anything that takes the place of putting pen to paper and writing a genuine note of appreciation.

Every time I’ve given a talk or had the opportunity to be a guest on a radio or TV show, I write a note thanking the individual who invited me.

In a world often full of complex, ethical dilemmas this one is a no-brainer.

It feels good to get a “Thank You” note.  It feels better to write one.


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