DEAR MISS MANNERS: A friend of the family wrote on his card (which included a generous wedding gift), “No thank-you note requested.” This man is my father’s business partner, and as someone whom I have known since I was very young, it seemed inappropriate for me not to acknowledge his gift, even at his request.
After weeks of mulling over the appropriate response, I opted to send a short but sweet email instead of a paper thank-you card I sent to everyone else. Despite having made my decision, I still feel uncomfortable disregarding his request. What would you recommend that I do in the future, should such a situation arise?
GENTLE READER: No doubt your father’s partner saw this as added generosity on his part – to excuse you from an onerous duty. But you were right to recoil from his suggestion, because it would have forced you to be rude.
How is that possible (Miss Manners imagines you wondering), when you would only be complying with his suggestion? If he doesn’t care about receiving thanks, why should you bother giving them?
The answer is that otherwise, he will have made you into an ingrate.
It is the essence of letters of thanks that the writers must seem to be writing spontaneously out of gratitude that they feel and can’t help expressing. This is why obvious form letters – ones that begin “Thank you for the …” or, worse, pre-printed ones – are unsatisfactory. So by agreeing not to write, you would be admitting that you were not actually grateful and were relieved to be free of the chore of pretending that you were. Your benefactor may declare this not to be rude, but you and Miss Manners know that it would be.