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Miss Manners: Does ‘You Are Welcome’ Send the Right Message?

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DEAR MISS MANNERS:

I am curious about your opinion when TV guests are told, “Thank you for being on the show,” and they reply, “Thank you.” Why do so many guests skip the “You’re welcome” and go directly to “Thank you,” often without adding “… for having me”?

Do we no longer acknowledge thanks on radio or TV?

GENTLE READER:

Actually, there is a lot of thanking that goes on in news programs and interview shows. For example, anchors thank their correspondents, which is more than Miss Manners recalls newspaper editors doing when reporters handed in their copy.

But it is an awkward situation. Don’t you think that “You’re welcome” would sound as if the correspondents had done the anchors a favor?

It is sort of the same with the so-called guests. As the opportunity to sound off on television is considered a boon, return thanks are better than “You’re welcome.”

For that matter, the situation is similar to real guests in ordinary social life. But then it is the guests who thank the hosts first. And “You’re welcome” would not sound quite right, so the hosts just say how delighted they were to have the guests.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My fiancé and I wish to have a small wedding, which we’ve tried to announce from the outset. We are still in the planning process.

How should we handle seeing extended family over the holidays when they aren’t invited to our wedding? While we don’t intend to talk about a party with guests who are not invited, engagements tend to beget wedding inquiries.

GENTLE READER: Whatever size a wedding is, it is prudent to describe it as “small” and “quiet,” adding, “We really don’t want a fuss made over it.” Miss Manners also advises you to warn your parents not to say, “Yes, it’s only 300 of their closest friends.”

Miss Manners: Skip the ‘You’re welcome’ email

DEAR MISS MANNERS:

Long ago, I was taught that when someone says “thank you,” you say “you’re welcome” (unless, of course, they aren’t). This has always worked well for me in person and on the telephone.

Now, however, the modern means of communication ensure that I almost never actually hear a co-worker’s voice. Still, when someone emails me a thank-you, I respond with a “You’re welcome!”

I have recently noticed (yes, I’m slow, always was) that no one else does this. So now I wonder if modern etiquette means that not only is my response superfluous, but even perhaps annoying. After all, the only thing to do with an email like that is to delete it.

Not that I’ve received any complaints, but should I stop doing this?

GENTLE READER:

Far be it from Miss Manners to discourage conventional courtesies, even superfluous ones. But that is what she is about to do.

Written thanks do not require that acknowledgment. A letter of thanks needs no response unless it is accompanied by a present. (Then it still doesn’t require “you’re welcome,” but does require another letter of thanks for the present — which the recipient needn’t answer, so that is the end of the chain. Whew.)

Anyway, people’s inboxes are choked with emails, so it would be a good idea to drop this well-meant but unnecessary addition.

Miss Manners: How to respond to a preemptive ‘you’re welcome’

DEAR MISS MANNERS: 

I am a 16-year-old girl who was taught to be polite and to say “please” and “thank you.” I try to be grateful and thank the people around me, even for little things like answering a simple question or handing me something.

What bothers me is when people immediately say “You’re welcome” before I have a chance to thank them. It comes across to me as if they are assuming that what they’ve done deserves to be thanked, and it feels as if it takes the courtesy away when I respond with “thank you.” Am I the only one who finds this rude? How can I respond to this?

GENTLE READER:

Acknowledging thanks that have not been expressed is more than an assumption: It is often a thinly veiled criticism. But as you have not yet thanked the person, now is not the time to start a fight.

Miss Manners suggests leaning in with an enthusiastic, “I was going to say: Thank you so, so much!” The implicit counter-criticism will be all the more clear if your emphatic gratitude is out of proportion to the action being acknowledged.

DEAR MISS MANNERS:

 Our daughter was married last August, and my husband and I hosted a prenuptial dinner for close family and out-of-town guests at our home. The brides had previously sent an email to the wedding guests to let them know that alcohol would not be served at the wedding.

Out of respect for their wishes and our own sensibilities, we only served lemonade, iced tea, and water at the dinner.

My sister-in-law came into our kitchen where the buffet was set out, carrying a brown paper bag containing two wine bottles. She left it on a counter, after pouring herself the first of a few glasses.

I was upset that she not only brought alcohol but left the wine out on the counter. Not knowing what to say, I said nothing. Days later, it occurred to me that I could have moved it to a corner and quietly told her where it was. I didn’t want to ruffle her feathers, but she sure ruffled mine. Should this ever happen again, what would you suggest I say or do?

GENTLE READER: 

A hostess who keeps a wine bottle in the kitchen for herself is treating her guests with inexcusable rudeness — even if she does not get caught. And normal guests are, with modest exceptions, expected to stick to the menu (though they may, of course, decline specific items).

As a family member, your sister-in-law was both — and neither. You would presumably appreciate her treating your house as a second home, within reason, and you have some duty to protect her from the consequences of her own rudeness.

But you may also ask yourself if her inability to get through the evening without a drink itself requires further inquiry. Assuming her rudeness was casual, and not more serious, Miss Manners would have moved the bottle to an inconspicuous spot and told your sister-in-law where to find it, as you mentioned, while cautioning her not to flaunt it. You can tell your brother about it after the party.

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