When gratitude is trivialized too often and too thoughtlessly, we run the risk of discouraging it to the point where it stops altogether.
As I have been in Mexico, I have noticed an interesting linguistic phenomenon. By far, the most common response I’ve noticed to someone expressing gratitude is, „De nada.” I’m sure there are part of the U.S. where “No problem” or “It’s nothing” are the most common responses to “Thank you” as well, so this is nothing of a cultural indictment. But it got me thinking.
I wrote recently about trivializing apologies. The fact that we do that feels more explicable to me than our tendency to do the same with gratitude. With an apology, we at least might be seeking to extend mercy or uplift the other person.
However, when we trivialize gratitude, I think we do it thoughtlessly, even without realizing it. Just as with personal questions masquerading as greetings, we can fall into the trap of using societal niceties without considering what they actually mean, or the effect they might have.
Perhaps this will be easier to understand when we stop to think more about what is actually happening when someone expresses gratitude. Of course, there are thoughtless “Thank you”s bandied about, and they can muddy the waters. But typically when someone expresses appreciation, it represents a moment of vulnerability. They are self-aware enough to notice feelings of respect, admiration, or gratitude, and they are opening themselves up to expressing those emotions. It is often not easy to share our true emotions, and if sharing is not met with gentleness, it can be truly painful.
When we respond to appreciation with phrases such as, “Oh, it was nothing,” or, “No problem at all,” we are probably trying to be modest. We don’t want to appear conceited, and somehow believe that if we validate what the other person is saying, we will be perceived as arrogant enough to assume that what we did was important and merited thanks. When we fall into this mindset, we are being selfish and self-centered.
When someone thanks you, you are not the point. Not even your actions are the point. The point is the other person, and their willingness to express themselves. That ought to be welcomed and celebrated. We would be much better off if everyone was more wiling to share what truly matters to them.
So the next time someone appreciates you, stay in the moment for a minute. Resist the urge to think of yourself and how you might appear. Focus on that person and the feelings they are sharing. Honor and validate that sharing, and encourage it to continue.