“If you do acts of kindness because you hope to receive gratitude, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Many people lack the ability to express gratitude.
So don’t expect gratitude. Be grateful if the person is grateful!”
My first run in with this advice was my mother who said essentially the same thing when she said, “A true gift of charity is done anonymously.” My friend Bruce had a lot of advice related to this as well. Bruce often helped people who either didn’t thank him or sometimes even turned on him, but he never really stopped being nice to people. I tried to live by this example, because I always thought that if you’re seeking praise for your acts, your selected charity ends up to be only used for your benefit. A lot of politicians and business people do this. PBS survives on the concept, now that i think about it. I mean, who here would have ever head of the Chubb group at all if it wasn’t for PBS? Anyway, in personal matters, expecting gratitude will lead to negative results.
But I know I am not in the majority with this. Whenever I bring it up, some people always have some counter-example of helping someone who selfishly didn’t return thanks. I have to admit, not giving thanks is selfish and rude, but I think complaining about it isn’t much better. I gain joy from fixing the problem over recognition, in fact, I often get embarrassed when someone says something like, “I would have failed this, had it not been for Punkie’s help,” although I appreciate it. More often than not, I do little things here and there for people in unobtrusive ways. For instance, cleaning an office kitchen counter so people won’t have to stare at coffee stains until the cleaning crew arrives is something I do. No one ever thanks me for it, nor would I ask for thanks. The argument can be made that some coworkers are slobs and will just mess it up again, and “no one appreciates my work.” I don’t care; it’s the right thing to do.
Fishing for thanks seems... I don’t know. I never now how to answer that without seeming insulting. In conversations, people can react really defensively. In fact, just admitting this seems a little like fishing for thanks. Or like I want to be rude and say I don’t need to thank anyone. That’s not the case. I posted this because the e-mail reminded me of why I do this.
In customer service, there’s a saying that for every customer you do something positive for, they’ll tell 2-3 people who each may tell someone else. For every negative thing you do, they’ll tell ten or more, who will add to the story, and tell yet another ten. Many potential salespeople can’t handle that. They, may say it’s not fair, or seems defeatist. I don’t care what it sounds like because experience tells me that it’s fairly true. Not because of sales, but that’s how life is. We struggle to be good people, but often slide into negativity. It’s so easy to be negative and destructive; you really don’t have to do anything but sit there and wait for entropy to kick in. To be positive requires hard work, often uphill, both ways, barefoot in the snow. That’s why I do what I can to give people some traction, or ease the slope a little. I thank as much as I can without fawning, and I help as much as I can without making myself useless in other ways.
I feel if that if enough people take care of the little things, the big things won’t be so hard. I am sure there are plenty of good examples why this is pointless because the universe will essentially implode or dissolve, mean people will go on being mean, and kittens will die of starvation in alleys everywhere. Maybe I am being defiant, but I think if I am going to point my punk attitude anywhere, it’s going to be a big “fuck you” to the negative things, and while it doesn’t always end well, and I make mistakes, and some people really do have cold hearts and stony stares. I’ll do something really awesome, and never get thanked for it, or, oh no, someone else will take the credit! Oh gosh, oh NOES HALP!!1!
But for me the end result is the same: I get off on doing good stuff for people. Deal, bitches.
Peace and joy this season, ya’ll. :-D