Let me ask you two simple questions:
- When somebody pays you a compliment, do you thank them?
- If somebody sends you a gift, do you send a thank-you note? Thank-you phone call? Thank-you e-mail?
Chances are, if your mother raised you well, your answer to these two questions was, “Yes.” Because the whole point is that when somebody does or says something nice, you acknowledge your appreciation, even if it’s simply with a gracious smile.
But, what about when you get an unsolicited e-mail? Do you answer it? Do you acknowledge it? I don’t so much mean the spam, or the “I can make you a million dollars” business offers. Junk mail is a whole, separate animal. But what about a friendly e-mail from a stranger? Or an e-mail from a friend? A letter in the mail? (Remember those?) Do you reply?
By rights, the answer should again be, “Yes.” It’s a courteous gesture, an acknowledgement that another human made an effort to make contact. It’s true, it’s a busy, hectic world and it’s not necessarily possible (or desirable) to respond to every e-mail that shows up in your inbox. If I were to send an e-mail out of the blue to an A-list blogger who doesn’t know me from Eve, I wouldn’t really expect a personal answer (though I’d be thrilled to get one), any more than I’d expect to get a phone call from Julia Roberts if I sent her a friendly fan letter. (I’m sure that her mother taught her to be polite, too, but she only has so much time. To elicit an actual phone call, that would have to be some letter!)
Among family, friends, and acquaintances, though, it seems to me that the “Say Thank You” rule is as important as ever. If not more. We ARE all busy, crazed maniacs trying to keep all our balls in the air, and while it’s not possible to respond to everything, the polite, human-interaction thing is more important than ever. If you spend most of your time sitting on the far side of a computer monitor and keyboard from most of the people you interact with, your personal interactions become more important. Because they are exactly that–personal.
Human-to-human, even with a computer filter, is priceless interaction to a social species such as ourselves. I mean, sure, some people are annoying, but a lot of them are darn nice to be around. And, really, doesn’t it behoove us all to encourage as many of the nice ones as possible?