DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have noticed that you are big on thank-you notes for everything.
You stay the night, you send a thank-you note.
You have dinner with somebody, you send a note.
You receive a gift, you send a note.
If I was expecting a thank-you note from everybody who ever spent the night at my house, I would have to get a mailbox the size of a mid-sized car. My teenager had company all the time, and I was always thanked and hugged. I never expected a written thank-you note. That would just be overkill, because the same people were present 80 percent of the time.
Same with gifts. Same with dinner. I never sent thank-you notes and my friends never did, either. We were always just happy with a verbal “thank you.”
Why is it so important to send a thank-you note? Isn’t that just a little too much thanking? This just seems like an unnecessary process if you are sincerely saying “thank you” at the time of services rendered.
My house and all my friends’ houses are open doors. We never have formal dinners; we have great fellowship at our get-togethers with lots of laughing and warm feelings.
I do send a thank-you email to my family when they host a big holiday party, and let them know that they did a great job and all was appreciated. Can you help me understand why I differ in my responses to my friends for their hospitality?
GENTLE READER: Yes, if you give Miss Manners one moment to ponder a world in which there is “too much thanking.” She is having trouble imagining such a sublime thing.
If you did not understand the pleasure of receiving written thanks, you would not be sending them to your family.
The rule for thanking people for presents is to respond in kind. If someone sends one through the mail and is not there to see you open it, you send a letter. For ones handed out in person, verbal thanks are generally enough (unless it is a significant piece of jewelry or an otherwise extraordinary -- or costly -- present).
For meals and overnight stays, it is dependent on the ceremony of the occasion. A formal dinner party requires a formal, written thank-you note. Pizza back at the house does not.
An open house situation, such as you described, is middle ground. Since there is ample reciprocation with you and your friends, verbal thanks are generally enough. However, if that situation were to become one-sided and a guest stayed for a longer period of time, a letter of thanks -- and even a present, for which the receiver would then have to thank the sender -- would again be required.
Whew. Got all that? Complicated as it may sound, it really is not. And Miss Manners still maintains that it is far better than a world without gratitude.