Why Don’t People Show More Gratitude?

Gratitude thank youI was impressed this past weekend by the importance of gratitude, because of someone I encountered who didn’t show any.

It was a reminder to myself to show my gratitude for the favors extended to me in my personal and business lives.

No Thank You?

A friend and I visited our usual stalls at the flea market this past Saturday. Randi is a vendor we’ve been frequenting for years. First I’ll start with me.

I had bought a watch from Randi and went back a week later because it didn’t work. She didn’t want to issue a refund but said she’d get me a replacement watch.

On Saturday, she didn’t have the new watch and tried to convince me to buy one of the watches that had been on display before. I finally insisted on a refund that she reluctantly doled out.

My friend is moving out of the city (she’ll be back for business) and she was saying her goodbyes. She has patronized Randi for years, buying expensive pocketbooks, jewelry and gifts for clients.

You’d think Randi would at least say, “Good luck.” No, and not so much as a thank-you for your past business. Not a little gift. Nada. With those two slights she lost two good customers.

How Not to Cancel a Business Project

A publisher retained another business colleague for an out-of-town project. It required her to develop a pre-work assignment for participants. She subsequently turned down a project on that date for another client.

Time went by and she hadn’t heard from the first client. She called, and was told, “Oh, I forgot to call you. We cancelled that project. But don’t worry, you won’t have to pay the airline cancellation fee!”

How about being grateful and saying thanks for the time she already put in on the pre-work? How about the other work she could have accepted?

Expressing Gratitude

Whether you’re working for yourself or for a company, it’s important to show gratitude for big and small favors. It’s hurtful not to be grateful.

Do you show your gratitude to your clients by saying thank-you? Do you offer to go the extra mile on an assignment, and step up to meet a tight deadline? It’s the little things that count.

One of my clients, like me, is a regular theatergoer. She sends me her reviews of shows and I reciprocate so we both don’t end up seeing the shows that are stinkers. I am grateful for that.

Gratitude thanks for the dinner
Another west coast client was on his way to Europe for vacation and had a 7-hour layover at Kennedy Airport. He came into the city so we could have dinner together. What a nice gesture! I’m so grateful for that kindness. I could have gone out to the airport, after all.

I schedule Google alerts for clients and send them stories they might miss about their competitors and trends in the industry. I’m grateful for their business so it’s the least I can do

I am so grateful to my friends in business who are open in sharing their invaluable advice when I ask for it – and when they offer it without my asking because they sense I might be struggling.

I’m grateful for:

  • The business I have, thanks to my clients.
  • My business and personal friends who are there for me (you know who you are).
  • The beautiful thank-you notes I receive, even when I haven’t done anything to deserve them.
  • My LinkedIn and Google+ blogging buddies.
  • My health.
  • My family.
  • My webmaster.
  • Feeling that I live in the greatest city in the greatest country of all, even with the mess in Washington.

And, of course, I’m grateful to you, dear reader, for visiting and reading my blog.

Gratitude thank you

Leave a Reply


  1. Gratitude is just a part of being friendly. I like being friendly at my part-time job and sometimes people are genuinely shocked by my kindness.

    It always makes me wonder. Has being nice to people become such a rarity that when it happens it can throw people off their game.

    Life is too short to look for the cloud in every bit of silver lining. Being happy isn’t so hard, nor is showing gratitude, paying a compliment, or letting the little things slide.

    I hope people will take your message to heart and when someone does something nice, they’ll let them know.

    • Brian — I hope what you’re saying isn’t true — that being nice is so rare that it’s shocking. It actually makes me feel happy when I show someone gratitude. It’s a reminder of their kindness and that life is good.

    • Andrea — thank you for all the kind hand-written notes you send me. There is nothing as nice as receiving a note that someone has taken the care to write. It stands out from all the other mail you receive.

  2. what a wonderful post and reminder Jeannette! I try to show gratitude – i am afraid i not always do it but i am thankful i would never make it to your list of bad examples (i think LOL)

    Your examples for the watch lady and that other lady who “forgot” to call when the project was canceled got me thinking about a recent story i have to share 🙂 I know here in Spain they like not doing their job unless it is absolutely necessary (we cannot even speak of anticipating one’s needs!) but imagine this.

    I have made a reservation for an apartment, i have booked a parking spot and i am emailing to ask for directions to the parking. They tell me i need to go to the hotel first to do check-in and then they will show me to the parking. I went with google street view and saw that the street is kinda narrow, quite possibly a pedestrian street – so i cannot go with my car there. Even if i could, i won’t be able to stop there and leave my car while doing check-in in the apartment.

    So email once more asking if there is a place i can leave my car while doing check-in because i think it’s a pedestrian street. The reply i got was “yes, you are correct – it is a pedestrian street and you cannot come by car to the apartment. you must walk to us, make check-in and then you’ll be shown to the apartment”.

    So i had to email once more, asking where the heck i can leave my car while walking to the apartment to make the check-in?! Finally they gave me the address of the parking in front of which there is enough space to leave the car for a few minutes while i check-in.

    So it took me multiple emails and 3 days to get the information which should have been provided to me the minute i made the reservation – or at least that’s what i think and what i would have done if i were the owner of the rental apartment 😀

    My story is not so much about gratitude and i think that for most people and business owners, it’s not about showing (or not showing) gratitude – it’s about being inconsiderate and not even thinking about what it is that the client might want and need for doing business comfortably with them.

    It saddens me to see in what a direction business is going these days…

    Thank you again for a great post and reminder, Jeannette!

    • Diana — your story is classic. Yes, a lack of gratitude can also show a lack of consideration. How could you check in first if you didn’t have a parking spot? You could laugh at the absurdity of it if it wasn’t so irritating. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. It’s kind of odd how it all works isn’t it Jeannette? I cannot say that I am totally innocent. In the past 3 years though, since starting a daily gratitude journal, I’ve been able to observe more times and people to be grateful for than ever.

    World Gratitude Day falls on September 21. Maybe we bloggers can collaborate to make it more noticeable? The world would certainly benefit.

    Thanks as always for a valuable post Jeannette.

    • Pat — I didn’t know (or possibly didn’t remember) that you keep a daily gratitude journal. What a wonderful idea! I wasn’t aware that there was a World Gratitude Day. Love your idea of promoting it in our blogs.

  4. Gratitude is a highly under-used response to kindness or even everyday thoughtfulness. Just like you it sometimes amazes me just how self involved some people are that taking 2 seconds to recognize a positive in someone else’s life is just too much to ask. Nice post and it can never be said enough.

  5. Jeannette, this post needed saying. One of my big ‘lack of gratitude’ beefs is that people no longer send Thank You notes. I remember when I got married, sending out personalized thank you notes was a priority…at that time we didn’t feel that people had to give. I have attended several weddings – one of my own boys – and not a thank you note. That is so rude. Showing gratitude is nothing more than good manners, wish they would return.

    • I agree, Lenie. It is appalling that people don’t send Thank You notes — even an email is better than nothing at all. I always send a note after I’ve been to a friend’s for dinner. One close friend asked me to stop because she was embarrassed. She never sent Thank You notes and didn’t plan to start!

  6. I think if everyone took the time to count their blessings and show their gratitude (operative word here is SHOW their gratitude!) the world would be a much better place. I believe though that so many people are so used to the good life that they are numb and don’t appreciate the little things anymore. Great post 🙂

    PS.. I’m grateful for scented candles, books made of actual paper, and sunshine. And sometimes my kids. More so probably when school starts again next week. lol

    • Amy — interesting point. Most people (at least in the U.S.) do have a good life and I think the younger generation has grown up with more of an expectation of getting than giving.

  7. Jeannette, I cannot tell you how much I think a zillion people need to read this…I will share it everywhere. I have blogged on the topic too. I have a hard time in today’s world where gratitude slogans are posted everywhere, affirmations are on coffee cups and t-shirts and yet I rarely hear the simple words…thank-you. Not to mention thank-you notes! I still send them, but I don’t recall the last time I got one:) Nonetheless, I send them anyway. I feel like we have 2 opposing forces at work…a culture that says “be you no matter what” without the consideration of the consequences your actions or words might have on another. Then the “be grateful to the universe”…but how about being grateful to the guy who just opened the door for you. I love the idea of doing the posts for National Gratitude Day!

    • Thanks so much for sharing, Jacquie! It is the little things like saying thank you to someone who holds a door for you. I take a lot of buses, living in NYC. Often I’ll run to catch one and a nice driver will hold the bus for me. I always thank him or her because they don’t have to do it. Yet so often I will be sitting there and watch the same scenario unfold and 99% of the time, the person boarding the bus doesn’t say thank you. It really bugs me.

  8. Jeannette- What great post. I have always been grateful and appreciative to people. I find no matter what the situation, if you just say thank you the recipient responds in kind. I think this blog applies to all the take the time to visit a blog and will take the time to leave a comment and reciprocate. You may not be saying thank you but you are showing your gratitude. Gratitude is shown in so many ways. It is another act of kindness. It is one of the cheapest things to do in life-show gratitude and it worth millions.

    • Arleen — Thank you. I’m grateful for your comments and I agree that gratitude is an act of kindness. So simple but too often disregarded.

  9. Awesome post Jeannette!

    I absolutely agree that whether you’re working for yourself or for a company, it’s important to show gratitude for big and small favors. But not only then – anytime someone does something that I appreciate, I thank them for it. Sometimes it’s simply taking the time to reply to an email, or for their feedback or candor… There’s so many ways that we can thank people and like you say, it’s absolutely true that it registers with people. It’s helpful and meaningful.

    Coming from a place of positivity and love makes it easy to thank someone – I make a point to show my gratitude (even if it’s just for being in my life) to at least 1 person per day. It’s a good way to be.

  10. Aw, I could write a book about this… LOL. I get what you\’re saying and see gratitude, or lack there of, in action every day. When I get a nudge or thank you that was unexpected, it always lifts my spirits and makes me that much more grateful to the person who extended that gesture. In our very hectic lives, it\’s very easy to just keep on rolling without a thought of offering a simple, yet important show of appreciation. So I say to you, thank you for always supporting me, I do hope I offer the same in return. Thank you for being a friend and always knowing when I needed a simple pat on the back or bolster of confidence. You are truly a friend I cherish. Hugs, 🙂

    • Susan — thank so much. I consider you a great friend, too. We simply have to meet someday. It’s my pleasure and easy to offer you support because I really admire your work.I am very grateful for your ongoing support, too. It’s fun to be cheerleaders for each other!

  11. You’re so right, it’s the little things that count. I like your Google alert idea. I bet your clients really appreciate that. You’ve inspired me to remember to show some gratitude today, so you’ve already made the world a better place!

    • Meredith — I’m glad you like the Google alert idea. It’s a good idea to set up a Google alert for yourself, too, to see what people are saying about you!

  12. Isn’t it wonderful when we can take a disappointing event and turn it into something so thoughtful and generous in spirit. Being so aware of your feelings and the reasons for them has brought out a wonderful perspective of who you are.

  13. Remember when you were a kid and you a had to write the full blown thank you letter to grandparents for the $5 in the birthday card? Not a note, mind you, but a letter! These days it would be truly amazing if kids sent a text that said, “hey Gma thanks 4 $$”. Seriously, what happened to thankfulness, gratitude, courtesy… Whenever a man holds the door for me i always make sure to thank him and make sure to make eye contact and know he heard me and realizes I really appreciate it. You wouldn’t believe some of the stunned looks I get. I think they are just so used to being unappreciated. A little gratitude goes a long way in every area of life.

  14. I am always trying to thank those who have helped me. I think not showing gratitude is a form of arogance, as if you are entitled to what others provide, so there is no need to be thankful.

  15. I’m big on expressing gratitude, but also tend to get a bit miffed when people don’t return the favor. My decade of teaching showed me how many people aren’t learning the value of gratitude and so often it’s treated as some sort of bother. I’m the person who never forgets to send a birthday or a Christmas card to someone because it’s the nice thing to do and only makes sense, yet cards and thank you notes seem to be going out of style. My biggest pet peeve would be store clerks who act like they’re doing customers some sort of favor by taking the time to wait on them.

    • Jeri — I agree that cards and thank you notes are going out of style, not because they’re not the right thing to do but because people just don’t want to be bothered. It’s sad. I was at my local patisserie the other day and the girl behind the counter had such a sour expression on her face I could feel the hostility. So I asked her, “Is something bothering you today? You look so angry.” She didn’t respond. Made me feel better saying it anyway!

  16. I’m afraid gratitude is a dying art. I try hard to teach my daughters to always find something to be grateful for in every situation, no matter how hard or disappointing it may be. It’s not always easy but it is always worth the effort. It’s what allows us to see how everything we experience contributes to our personal growth. Our children are growing up in a very selfish world where gratitude is shared much too infrequently. I also try, as much as possible to send random gratitude cards, sometimes completely out of the blue when something I experienced reminds me of someone. Not a day goes by that I am not eternally grateful for my parents, who they are, how they’ve raised me and continue to shine a light in my life.. For my siblings who are a daily reminder of blessed we are to love each other so profoundly when we see so many families that are torn apart by one thing or another… My husband and my girls give purpose to everything I do.. I am grateful to be surrounded by wonderful friends… for my readers, my clients, my new business partner and the business we are about to launch.. God only knows that when we stop and take the time to look around we have infinite reasons to be grateful.. Thank you for this post, for the reminder that gratitude is life giving and life sustaining …

    • Thank you, Valerie, for your heartfelt comment. I just read your post about the Gift of Giving Back. You are living what you write about — giving and being grateful for your blessings. I feel the same way. I am so grateful for my friends and family every day.

  17. My worst recollection of an example of this that really hurt me is from way back in college. I worked for a department in the Engineering building. One day another department head needed to get some letters out right away. They were identical but each needed to be typed. So I worked on them and so did the other guy’s secretary. Then I heard my boss say to the other guy that I was much faster than his secretary (I was) and he didn’t have to pay me as much. I felt so bad that he gloated rather than complimenting me or even giving me a little pay hike, that I quit.

    • Beth — ouch, that really hurts. Well he got his in the end. He lost a very productive employee when just showing some gratitude and a little pay raise would have made you a happier employee and you might have stayed.

  18. What a wonderful post, Jeannette. I think we all need to express a little more gratitude. My husband’s health has been failing, and I have had to take on most of the duties of running our household and keeping up the yard. If he was not a gratuitous soul, I may become resentful of my increased responsibilities. But because he is generally cheery, and most often freely expresses his gratitude, I don’t mind my increased workload at all.

    • Doreen — I feel for you as I had to care for my husband when he was failing, too. Aren’t we both lucky to have husbands so grateful for what you do. Charles never whined, never said “woe is me.” I didn’t mind the increased workload, either, and I actually felt we became closer during his final days.

  19. I’m thankful to read your blog and come out of it wanting to improve my manners towards others. Here in Korea, there’s always gratitude shown by the smaller business people. Always something extra is given as a token of gratitude. It’s something that’s changing with more corporations moving in but in the small arena, I doubt it will ever change. Thank you for sharing this. I know that sounds like a stock “Thank You” but I really thank you for writing this. Cheers.

    • Carl — thanks for your comment. We can all improve in the gratitude department. I appreciate your thoughts and I thank you for your comment.

  20. Hi Jeannette; I’m glad to see your taking the time to show appreciation. Its one area I don’t think I have any problems with. I have sometimes been surprised by the reaction of people when you say thank you. I think there are fewer people showing appreciation openly these days. And I’m glad to be one of your regular readers. Take care, max

    • Max — you are the epitome of someone who always says thank you and expressing your gratitude. I really appreciate that and so do your growing legions of followers.

      • Hi Jeannette; after reading your post I am glad to hear this. I have gotten a lot of help along with many wonderful encouraging comments; so I try to show my gratitude always. take care friend, max

  21. Lots of people write about gratitude and tell us to express it. You, on the other hand, make it real with stories from your life. That works well. I hope it pays off in cash for you.

    • Deidre — I think the important thing about gratitude is not having the expectation of something in return. Eventually, it will pay off in many ways, sometimes monetary but mostly in feeling good about yourself.

  22. My husband and I frequent a Hampton Inn in Ontario, CA when we have to come to the area for business. While we’ve stayed at other properties, we much prefer this particular hotel. We have not had to come down here for several months until this past Thursday so we are here now. This is where it gets good. Every front desk employee we see has remembered us and our names and they go out of their way to make us feel welcome. One of the housekeeping managers remembered us too as did the hotel manager we saw yesterday. I had just told my husband yesterday how much I appreciated every one remembering us and treating us so well. The staff’s gratitude towards us will result in our continued business but also my gratitude for them as I plan to share our appreciation with an email to Hilton as well as reviewing them online. It’s contagious. I am an extremely appreciative person by nature…and it just kills me when I encounter someone who is not.

    • Pamela — that’s a wonderful story. Remembering someone’s name is the ultimate compliment. It is so much easier and less stressful to be nice instead of nasty.

  23. Agree with you completely about the importance of gratitude. Like Jacqueline points out, a multitude of people need to read this.

    Once I helped a woman get a job in London which enabled her to finance her studies at the London School of Economics. But, most likely because of low self esteem, she turned on me after that.

    A woman I know recently helped a person succeed with building up a profitable company. Instead of being grateful the person started bad mouthing her online.

    What’s wrong with gratitude? We are not perfect and to give and get help is a fundamental part of life. But gratitude is part of the concept.

    • Catarina — two sad stories but not surprising, unfortunately. I think your examples are where the individuals might have been embarrassed or felt inadequate in accepting help. Their response was totally inappropriate, of course. Instead of gratitude, they responded by lashing out.