In the South, we are taught to thank everyone for everything, even when we don’t mean it.
In the age of digital communication, Southern manners are annoying.
Whether you know it or not, we are now being conditioned to say only what’s absolutely necessary. Well-mannered professionals in the New South are being encouraged to let go of the rules we were taught growing up in favor of brevity and clarity.
Last week I came across a piece in the New York Times that debated the efficiency of sending a “Thank you” reply to the receipt of an email. On one hand, it is nice to know the person appreciates whatever crucial piece of work you sent. On the other hand, it’s just another email clogging up your inbox.
This prompted deep, internal reflection: I am a gratuitous email thanker. I even send a “thx” to texts. According to the New York Times, I am super annoying.
I can be annoying for lots of reasons – at least 10 come to mind immediately – but it’s sad that having good manners is now deemed bothersome. As someone who struggles to keep up with two email accounts, three Twitter feeds, two Facebook accounts, two LinkedIn accounts, a Pinterest page, and, of course, a blog, I get it. Have we gotten so busy, though, that we don’t have time or even appreciate a common courtesy such as “Thank you?”
If “love means never having to say you’re sorry”, then in the New South being comfortable in the relationship means never having to say “Thank you.” Thinking about my own texting and email habits, I tend to say “Thank you” to people with whom I don’t have a well-established relationship. Since changing jobs, I’ve found that I do it a lot more than I used to with my former colleagues.
I had no ill will towards my former colleagues. It’s just after working with many of them for 10 years, I became very comfortable in my relationships and didn’t feel a need to thank them for every little email. But now, I am so eager to get off on the right foot, that I thank everybody for everything. And the New York Times tells me I am super annoying by doing so.
Sometimes, a brief “thx” or even an “lol” can be used to help gently land a seemingly endless text or email conversation. It’s a way to put a punctuation mark on the interaction and allow you to get back to work. Overuse, however, can be just that much more annoying.
I think the healthy balance is found in the secret of all good communication: consider the audience. It’s not just novelists or bloggers who need to ask “What does the reader want?” After all, isn’t etiquette, at its root, about making others feel comfortable?
If you are texting your brother, “thx” isn’t necessary. If you are emailing your boss, it’s not a bad idea to include a quick reply to confirm receipt. This isn’t universal. Don’t thank your boss if he or she hates email and doesn’t really know you. We live in an era of situational etiquette.
Taking a split second to decide how your message will be received and interpreted can save you grief. That momentary and tiny bit of thoughtfulness will be appreciated more than a thoughtless response, no matter how cheery.
And if it’s really important to thank someone, send a note. Yes, they still exist.
Now, I’m going to queue up some “Thank you” emails for everyone who read this post.
Do you like getting “Thank you” emails or “thx” texts or do you prefer the silent treatment? Are you an annoying thanker, too? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment, and I promise not to thank you for doing so.