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Gabby101's avatar

How to respond when people don't say thank you?

Asked by Gabby101 (2950points) February 12th, 2015

I have two nieces who rarely thank me when I give them a present and am not there to give it to them personally (e.g., I mail a gift). No call, email, text, nada.

I faithfully gave them presents until they turned 18 and then stopped for three reasons:
1) They never thanked me.
2) When one had a birthday, I would send a present to both of them and one day when it came up they didn’t even acknowledge that I had done so and when I brought it up they were silent – again, no thank you, no “that was cool”, no nothing!
3) During the 24 and 29 years I have known them I have only received one birthday card from one of them.

I decided two years ago to give them a second chance because they were older and maybe wiser (?), but did not receive a thank you after sending gifts and so have decided to stop again. I don’t do it for the thank you, but I guess I feel that if they don’t appreciate the gift, I would rather spend my money on someone who does (like myself!!). What puzzles me most is that these girls are not wealthy. They struggle to make ends meet – why wouldn’t they say thank you for $100?

Here’s my question – how do you feel about my decision not to send presents going forward? I have two other nieces who always thank me for their gifts and as I am thinking about my will, I don’t feel like splitting the money equally.

I feel guilty about this because I don’t like being unfair, but I guess I feel just as guilty about rewarding bad behavior.

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32 Answers

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Good Aunt… A question for their parents, if it really needs to be addressed.

Gifts past 18 are unnecessary. I would have stopped at 12, before the teens ever started.

Perhaps now, a simple phone call would be enough. Wish them well, and ask them what they’re hoping for a gift this year. Then share that hope with them. Doesn’t mean you have to make their hopes come true.

chyna's avatar

I agree that it is not the “thank you” but actually that they never acknowledged that you sent them something. It is only common courtesy to at least say I received the gift or if it was money to tell you what they spent it on. Parents should have made sure they sent a thank you years ago. It’s too late now. Do not feel guilty. Do what you feel is right.

Gabby101's avatar

BTW, I have texted one of them to ask if she got her present and the response was “yea.”

Coloma's avatar

If you expect a “Thank You” then you have not really given a “gift.”
I understand basic etiquette however, any time we have expectations surrounding our giving that are not met, the hardcore truth is….your “gift” has strings attached.
If you WANT to give, give, if you “give” with expectations of having your ego gratified by a “Thank You” or endless gratitude, well….lets call a spade a spade shall we?

So this is where you get to do some personal growth work.
If your “gift” is something you really WANT to give, then give it free from attachment to recognition. Recognition would be nice, but not mandatory.
If your “gift” is intended to collect personal ego strokes, lf your giving is based on recognition only, then….stop giving.

We may not like it, but..this is the truth of “giving.”
Anything expected back is not really giving, in the truest sense of the word.

Gabby101's avatar

@Coloma, I don’t agree that a thank you equates to endless gratitude, but even if it did, you are correct I do NOT want to give a gift that is not appreciated. Not because of an ego issue or because I want recognition, but because I would rather spend my limited income elsewhere. If you donated something to a charity and you found out that they did not use your donation – that they didn’t cash your check because it was too small or they tossed what you sent them, would you make that same donation again? I would guess not. Not because you are angry but because you can see that your gift had no value to them. It was not something that they needed or wanted. To me, if a gift does not warrant a thank you – such a small thing in today’s texting world – then that is a sign that my gift was not something was needed or wanted and they will not mind not receiving it in the future.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t speak to members of my family but they send my children (who are now adults) cards, and they used to include money in the card. I’m not sure if they still include money. I hope not. However, I do know over the years I have when my children were younger I a. handed them the phone to call and say thank you or b. recommended they call, write or something to say thank you. Unless I handed them the phone, I’m quite sure my request was often forgotten soon after they heard it.

They’re adults now. They aren’t bad people. They aren’t rude and bad mannered in other ways in my presence. However, I’m pretty sure they rarely remember to call or write to thank relatives for cards or presents. I think they’re just too wrapped up in their own lives. They also don’t see their relatives often (if ever) and so they don’t feel emotionally connected to them.

It disappoints me that they do forget to say thank you but I really don’t think it’s because they don’t appreciate the thought or intend to hurt their relatives. I think they’re just oblivious to the effect their bad manners have on the person sending the gift/card.

I agree with those who say stop sending gifts (or even cards unless you want to) to relatives over 18.

Gabby101's avatar

@Earthbound_Misfit – good points. They text me for other reasons, just never a thanks. That’s what is weird to me.

I will admit that I have a weird relationship with money – I grew up poor and it has a significance to me that it may not have to other people.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

They should thank you. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind about that. I suspect they are thoughtless rather than sincerely not caring about your gifts though. Your point about your relationship to money is a good one. Young people have often been raised in situations where money has not been quite so lacking as it was for us in our youth. In addition, I don’t think parents are quite so strict about etiquette rules as our parents were. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this and indeed, of not writing to say thank you!

jca's avatar

If you spoke to the girl on the phone and asked if she received the gift, and all she could think of saying was “yeah” without then adding “I loved it. Thank you so much” or something similar, then in my opinion, she’s just plain rude or was not brought up properly, to know to at least acknowledge and thank you. For her to forget occasionally is one thing, but when it’s put in her face and she still can’t say it, then to me, she deserves what she gets. Just my opinion. If you want to call it ego stroking or whatever, then it is what it is – to me, the least I could get is a thank you.

Coloma's avatar

@Gabby101 Well then, there ya go. You have come to your own conclusions.
If something is not directly asked for then, if you still choose to give and feel slighted because you were not appropriately given thanks, or your gift was not utilized or needed as you thought it might be, then stop giving. Just saying that a “gift” should never have strings attached, period.

Coloma's avatar

@jca Yes, if you ask the person about receiving said gift and they refuse to say “Oh yes, thanks”...then sure, that is pretty rude, otherwise, people do forget to acknowledge things at times and so, that is where it’s always best to realize it may be nice to get a thank you but to not be too attached. Just quit giving if people seem indifferent

trailsillustrated's avatar

Fuck people that don’t have common decency to send a nice “thank you”. I would’ve quit sending them anything years ago. I had a really, really close friend that married a cardiologist. I sent her a very expensive crystal bowl. She had nothing to do but sit on her arse and write thank you notes, since she didn’t have to work. Never heard a thing. That’s how much you matter to these nieces, and that’s how much I mattered to my friend. Screw people like this I know no one like this in my present life.

gondwanalon's avatar

Seems a bit strange how two simple words can mean so much.

You have to do what you have to do.

My niece is the same. She have never said thank you to me or my wife. We have been very patient and generous with her. We don’t even send her a Christmas or birthday car anymore. Also she is out of my will.

Stinley's avatar

I think that if you want them to say thank you and they don’t do it spontaneously then you can ask them to say thanks. If they haven’t been taught that saying thanks is good manners then as their relation or even just as an adult, I think you are entitled to remind them that it is good manners to say thank you for a gift. You can say it lightly of course and it should not affect your relationship with them but it might be nice to be the one who helps them learn a fairly basic bit of etiquette

Kburger's avatar

I really think that isn’t right hey, I hardly ever get a present or even a call from my aunts or uncles, never mind what you have done over the past years. I was raised to call and thank a person, or text or say it in person, what ever the method, I say please and thank you, and I don’t know anything different from that. It is called manners and they don’t seem to have much of that with you. I would second your decision to not send anything more, especially since they are grown up now as well.

LostInParadise's avatar

It is always a good idea to try to look at things from the other person’s point of view. Let’s start by assuming that they are not total ingrates. Maybe they had a problem in relating to adults. Maybe they just don’t feel all that close to you and see the gifts as way of trying to buy their friendship. How close are you to your neices? Have you ever had a lengthy conversation with them?

JLeslie's avatar

It’s the fault of their parents. A thank you is not just to show appreciation, but also so the sender knows it was received, and doesn’t have to wonder if the gift was lost in the mail.

You gave the, gifts throughout their childhood, I do the same, even though my neice and nephew did not always call to say thenk you,mesoecially when they were young children. They do now. It’s their mother’s fault. My mom used to send my husband’s sister money for Christmas (who does that) when she was first divorced to help her buy gifts for the kids, and she didn’t always call to say thnk you. Then they sent money at Christmas time directly to the kids (they saw these kids once every 3–5 years maybe) and at first they didn’t call to say thank you.

To me, it’s normal to stop sending gifts and money once the kids grow up, so I wouldn’t ever know you stopped because they didn’t say thank you.

One day, maybe you will get to mention it in normal conversation somehow to them so they learn. It doesn’t have to be a comment directed at them, it can be an indirect etiquette lesson that their aunt teaches them, because no one else has.

They might never have said thank you, but I am sure they appreciated your gifts. I have no doubt about it.

Do you talk to them other times of the year? Is it completely odd for them to text or call you? More contact in general might promote them to feel comfortable tanking you. It’s not an excuse for them, I just think possibly it might factor in to their behavior if that is the case. I think that is partly the problem with my husband’s family. Now that my neice and nephew are adults I don’t care about howntheir mom acts, I just call or text the, directly. Previously, I went through their mom out of respect for her, since the children were young.

jca's avatar

Nowadays with Facebook, email, texting and other social media, saying thank you is even easier than ever before. It can be quick, simple and not even require a phone call or any kind of personal interaction. When i was little, back in the Dark Ages, we were expected to write a note or call. I didn’t always remember to, but now with these other methods available there’s really not much of an excuse.

livelaughlove21's avatar

If they were younger, I’d blame the parents. My co-worker is dating a guy whose two sons didn’t thank her for birthday gifts she gave them even though the exchange was done in person. I blame her boyfriend – especially since this is the south and politeness here is expected even moreso than some other places (with our “yes/no ma’am/sir” and all that). I constantly hear parents telling their very young kids, “what do you say?” when they’re given a gift or a compliment.

However, these girls are my age and, regardless of how you grew up, 25 year olds have been around long enough to know basic etiquette. There’s no excuse for not thanking someone for a gift. That “yea” text would’ve pissed me off. I would’ve responded, “you’re welcome,” sarcasm implied. And, of course, they’d never receive another gift from me. I don’t give gifts to get a “thank you,” but rude little shits like that don’t deserve gifts.

JLeslie's avatar

Even when people know the etiquette, they lack a comfort level or the habit, if they don’t have the practice. I think it’s similar to people who can’t say they are sorry. Or, avoid confrontation at all costs. That’s the good thing about parents making kids do things they are uncomfortable with, they eventually learn to be more comfortable with it. Depends on the thing of course, some things parents do for that same reason I am completely against.

With my own niece and nephew what bothered me more than the lack of the thank yous, was the lack of relationship with them altogether. Etiquette, proper, whatever, I wanted to feel like they cared about the relationship more than anything. Or, that they felt a connection with me of some sort. I feel more connection with children of some of my friends then my own niece and nephew (by marriage).

jca's avatar

Exactly what @livelaughlove21 wrote about what my response would be, too, to the text “yeah.”

Pachy's avatar

I always make it a point to say thanks for gift, a favor, a compliment, a service, or a simple social pleasantry—either in person, in writing, or both. It’s one of my best traits. One of my (many) less admirable traits is that I’m usually annoyed when I don’t receive the same common courtesy.

gailcalled's avatar

My former mother-in-law (a wonderful role model) acted rather than brooded. One year when her three grandsons (my three step-sons) were in their late to mid-teens, she sent them each her usual generous Christmas check. Two of them sent hand-written thank-you notes. The third (and youngest and most problematical) did not. He was acting out and rebelling in many ways and was being lectured to by too many adults.

My mother-in-law let some time pass and then wrote to this kid that since there was no acknowledgment of her gift, she was no longer going to send him any more. Well, that really galvanized him. He sent a long, effusive and apologetic note practically by return mail. And continued to do so until his grandmother died. It informed his behavior in many ways from then on.

I had a similar experience this Christmas with my three grand-nephews, the oldest being ten. I was a little late with my thank-you letter to their mother for my gifts, and in it I apologized and reminded her that I had not been thanked by the kids for my gifts to them, also including generous checks.

A week later, a giant piece of poster paper arrived here filled with drawings, weird little-boy stick-on doodads, notes from the two older ones, references to Star-Wars legos, photos of their cat, and delicious scribbles from the four-year old. I had to rotate the paper several times to decipher their artistic take on how to sign their names.

Refrigerator art.

keobooks's avatar

I’ve been lucky and never had someone not say thank you for a present. I’ve only gotten a tiny amount of thank you cards, but that doesn’t bother me.

It DOES bother me when someone doesn’t say thank you when you hand them something. It’s a little thing, but it IS a courtesy. I remember the first time I passed the pepper to one of my nephews and he just snatched it out of my hand with no thank you for passing it. I was like DUDE.. you don’t DO that!

Gabby101's avatar

Thank you for all of your responses!

I am not especially close to my nieces, but I do see them twice a year when I go back home and they text me to see when I am coming home again or to wish my Merry Christmas, etc. I am certainly closer to them than I was my aunts. I don’t have children, so they have little or no competition! When they were younger and we lived in the same state, I would take time off work to eat lunch with them at school, they stayed over some weekends, we were quite close. Now they are adults and have their own lives, but I do talk with them and see them throughout the year and they often take the initiative.

To me, a text is as easy as it gets. I do not like to talk on the phone and many kids have probably never written a letter, so that’s why I gave them a “second chance” – excuse the terminology – I thought that now that they’re in their late twenties and practically text in their sleep, there were no more obstacles to being polite ;)

@gailcalled, I like your advice. I am not sure it is appropriate with adults, but I will certainly keep it in mind for my younger nieces if that becomes a problem with them.

@trailsillustrated- “That’s how much you matter to these nieces” – yes, it’s not just the gift that did not matter to them, but also the feeling that I do not matter to them.

Coloma's avatar

I just think many people in general, and especially younger people are notoriously self absorbed but I wouldn’t go so far as to decide they don’t care for you. That is like saying that of someone forgets your birthday they don’t care about you. I am not condoning lack of basic good manners, but…on the other hand, making up stories about not being cared for over something like a forgotten thank you note or a forgotten birthday is going too far.
Our minds always want to jump to worst case scenarios and most of the time the real truth is much simpler than the negative stories.

Really, the healthiest and mature thing to do would be to simply TELL your nieces how you feel.
” I know you guys are really busy but it bothers me when you do not acknowledge the gifts I have sent you.”
Better than fuming to yourself for days or weeks on end.

chyna's avatar

I sent a check to my cousin’s son for graduation last year. After about a month when I hadn’t heard anything back I checked my bank account to see if it had been cashed. It had not. So I called my cousin to see if her son had received my check. She said he had, but she was holding all checks until he sent thank you notes. I thought this was a good idea.
I really don’t see this as a person being uncomfortable saying thank you, I see it as being rude.

kritiper's avatar

You can’t say anything lest you sink to their level. Continue to say “please” and “thank you” to set good examples. And to anyone who doesn’t say these things, give them a dirty look!

JLeslie's avatar

The problem is some people never catch the hint. If you don’t tell them directly they never learn.

gondwanalon's avatar

Definitely the most important thing that I learned in the Boy Scouts was giving respect to elders by saying please, thank you, sir and ma’am. I quickly learned that adults just love that stuff and it was too easy to do and to make a habit of.

Sadly some people for some reason refuse to do it or just don’t get it.

archananair's avatar

I would say them thank you if they don’t thank me i think this will surely make them feel guilty and hope the person will be thankful to everybody in his life who will help him in future.

JLeslie's avatar

I think saying thank you to them with a tone saying basically ‘you ungrateful idiot,’ isn’t necessarily the best way.

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