Have you ever had your heartfelt thanks brushed-off by a sister saying things like:
“I was in the area anyway.”
“It only took me a couple of minutes.”
“It was nothing.”
Nothing! It may have been nothing of significance to them, but it was to you or you wouldn’t have been grateful, would you? And how did it make you feel when they dismissively brushed off your thanks? Did it make you feel as if you’d said something wrong or inappropriate? Did it make you feel as if your appreciation had been negated? That perhaps the sister hadn’t really been as thoughtful as you thought she had been and that you’d just been an afterthought?
Whatever the reason, you’ll probably hesitate to say thank you to that sister next time, won’t you? Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been looking at giving thanks and showing gratitude, and one of the things I mentioned was that some people stop giving thanks due to the way it’s been received in the past.
Some sisters seem to have been trained to brush off thanks and to feign modesty if people appreciate what they have done for them. But when they do that, they are actually hurting the grateful people at most or negating what they have said at least; neither of which are nice responses to anyone. So if you’ve fallen into that trap, what can you do about it?
Listen to Your Thoughts
Next time someone shows you appreciation or maybe pays you a compliment, before you say anything try to stop for a moment and note what you're going to say. Did you feel embarrassed by what they had said? Did you feel inadequate and not deserving of thanks? Did you want to minimize what you’d done, refute their kind words or dismiss them? Or maybe you wondered why they were thanking you and thought that they had an ulterior motive?
Check Your Response
Maybe they were trying to manipulate you; it does happen, but not all the time! Sometimes that “You did a really amazing job” or that “I don’t know what I’d do without you” can be a lead-in to taking advantage of your kindness.
So take a moment to think carefully about the person who is saying it. But don’t automatically be suspicious of them (unless it’s obviously just flattery); try to give them 70 excuses before you jump to conclusions. If you’re not sure, ask them to clarify what they meant.
If you felt embarrassed, inadequate or undeserving of thanks or maybe you are struggling with some deeper self-esteem issues at the moment. If that is the case, maybe you could benefit from trying to resolve this through the support of a coach or some good self-help books. Contact me if you feel that's the case. Fundamentally though, if someone is thanking you, it generally means that they appreciate what you have done for them.
Acknowledging their thanks can be the start of revising your feelings about yourself and also of improving your relationship with the other person.
Find a Positive Response
If someone thanks you, try to work out a way to accept it graciously. You don’t want to get into a long conversation in response, just keeping it short and simple is the most effective way.
Find a way to acknowledge what they said and also your feelings. Doing so doesn’t mean that you’re being proud or showing off, it’s just letting the sister know that you heard her and that you’re glad she is happy about what you did. Some examples of positive responses may be:
“I’m glad that you liked the dress; I thought that the color would suit you.”
“I wanted to come over to see you today; I’m glad you had a nice time too.”
“I know that you like this dish; that’s why I made it for you. Glad you enjoyed it.”
“I’m glad I had the chance to be able to help you.”
If your usual response up to now has been to mumble some brush-off when people have shown you appreciation, it may take a while to get into the habit of acknowledging gratitude and it may feel a bit strange at first. Taking a little time to practice a couple of simple responses that you could use may help.
It will get easier to do in time and knowing that you’re also making the other person feel happier and appreciated will help too! Everyone benefits when thanks are freely given and just as freely acknowledged.