Is “Thank You” Really Necessary?

Let me tell you about Sue. She’s my right-hand-woman who does my paperwork, liaises with clients, manages my workshops and keeps me in check when my brain goes AWOL.

The other thing she does is get very, VERY hot under the collar about something she sees as lacking in business life:


In one of many such conversations, she recently bemoaned the lack of a simple “Thank you” after she’d sent information to six people – stuff they’d requested and that she’d provided double-quick. Not a single person acknowledged what she’d done, let alone thanked her for it.

It made her mad…and it makes me mad too.

Courtesy is a HUGE value for me. You’ll see it sitting in my personal brand definition alongside the statement: “Please” and “Thank you” are the fundamentals of respect. In my view, they’re the least we should do when interacting with others, not an optional extra.

However, I recently had my view challenged.

A delegate at one of my workshops said she got so many emails in a day, she’d rather people didn’t send her more simply to say “Thanks”. And ergo, she didn’t thank others because she figured they’d feel the same.

It’s a good point and has some validity. You could even say she was being courteous by thinking about others’ workloads. (You could, but my personal value would make that hard for me to do.) It got me thinking though…

Is there still a place for “Please” and “Thank you” in modern business?
Are our lives so busy, we should cut the courtesy clutter?*

My strong belief in manners leads me to think, “I flippin’ well hope not!” However, maybe I need to curb my expectations of what ‘the least we should do’ now is.

So I’ve come up with my Politeness Parameters – a set of guidelines that, I believe, walk the line between good and bad manners and, in doing so, keep your personal brand firmly in others’ good-books. (And maybe even stop people like Sue from cursing your name under their breath!)

I’ve focused on emails here as I’d like to presume (because your mother brought you up, not dragged you up) that when you’re speaking to someone in person or on the phone, “Please” and “Thank you” will trip effortlessly off your tongue.

Politeness Parameter 1.

Where you know someone values courtesy, always use “Please” and “Thank you”. By focusing on what matters to them, you’ll create a positive impression.

Where you know someone’s not fussed about courtesy, feel free to ignore it. You’ll avoid a negative impression for cluttering up their inbox.

However, if you’re at all unsure, always err on the side of manners – because nobody ever got a clip round the ear for minding their Ps and Qs.

Politeness Parameter 2.

 Not every interaction needs a reaction. You don’t have to respond to every email that hits your inbox. However, you should give a courteous reply if:

  • the sender has provided you with something you needed/wanted/requested eg the answer to a question you asked.
  • the sender is someone you’re going to be having an ongoing relationship with eg you’ll be meeting them in person at some point.
  • the sender is important – your own personal A Lister, who you definitely want buying into your brand eg your boss or a client. (Unless you know for sure they dislike the additional messages – see above.)

    So there you have it. My dictum for modern manners. I’m sure plenty of you will agree and plenty will disagree, so please help me find out what you think by adding a comment in the box below. Thank you!

*Yes, I am aware I’ve just gone a bit Carrie Bradshaw there.

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