General Etiquette > Holidays

Hedged thank you's

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Lady Snowdon:
My FIL has a lot of really bad habits, but only one is sufficient to drive me to the brink of insanity.  The man cannot just say "thank you" for whatever you give him.  Every "thank you" comes with a monologue about how he's sure it'll be okay, but he doesn't want to play with it just now, in case it's terrible, but it's kind of you to think of him, and he's sure it'll be fine, but he just has to think about what if it's not fine...and so on, ad infinitum.  Every gift we give to him gets this reaction - even the things he's specifically asked for.  We gave him a copy of "Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly last year - a book he had asked for by title and author.  When he opened it, the response was "Gee, thanks.  I'm not sure if I'll like it, but I'll definitely read it.  I hope it's good.  If it's not, I don't know what I'll do with it.  But I'm sure it's good.  I don't want to open it now, in case it's not good though, you know?".  I said, "FIL, MIL said that you'd specifically asked for this book.  Is it the wrong one?".  He said, "No, no, I'm sure it's the right one, if that's what she said.  I just don't know if it'll be any good.  I mean, I'm sure it's good, because I said something about it, but if it's not good, I don't know..."

EvilMe would dearly love to ask for the present back when he pulls this, because obviously it's not what he wanted, and I wouldn't want to burden him with an unwanted gift, right?  >:D 

Disregarding that solution, what is a good way to respond to this kind of "thanks"?  It doesn't feel like a thank you at all, because he's so obviously dubious about what we've given him. 

gramma dishes:
That would drive me nuts too. 

Does he do this with everyone, or just with you?

It sounds like an old ingrained habit that will be hard and maybe impossible to break.  I'd be tempted to stop him after the first words ("Thank you, I think ...") and immediately say to him and everyone else in the room "Glad you like it, FIL.  Okay, now let's move on."  And then do move on to paying attention to someone else's gift.

Maybe he doesn't think the simple words "Oh, thank you!" are enough.  I think it sounds like he just feels a need to fill up empty air space with words of some kind, so he just rambles on and on.

How does your DH feel about it?  Or is he just so used to it that it doesn't phase him anymore?

As my dd would say, "You can't turn an Eeyore into Pooh Bear."

So don't waste your time trying to placate him or make him happy. It's a mission impossible. Ignore his comments except to respond, "You're welcome" to every thank you comment he makes. Do not let yourself be drawn into a conversation about the gift or attempt to placate him or make him happy. He really doesn't want to be made happy. He wants to complain and have the attention on him.

he sounds like so many of my relatives... people who cannot accept gifts (or compliments) or anything for themselves. either because they feel that they are not worthy so they have to 'belittle' the gift so it will be appropritae for them. or because they are afraid/ashamed/guilty if they ask for what they *really* want, so they throw out some 'neutral' request and want people to get them something else. Or they grew up in war time/depression/Holocaust and they are so afraid to "waste" something.

yes, it's frustrating but in the case of our relative (my father)  - we learned to live with it.

After your FIL gives that kind of thanks - does he actually read the book? does he actually use what you buy him?

I wonder if he feels pressured somehow to really like what he's given, and he's worried about sending the wrong message somehow.


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