The Full Moxie is pleased to offer our advice column, “To Whom It May Concern.” Our respondent, “Yours truly,” is a relational and communications expert with a Masters in Communication, and is also an experienced university instructor on the subject.
To Whom It May Concern,
How necessary are traditional, hand-written thank you cards these days? Isn’t a sincere, in-person thank you enough? (My mother-in-law would disagree…)
-Thankful, but short on time
During my last road trip, a discussion on proper thank-you note etiquette came up. I’m not kidding or humoring you, truly this happened. Thankfully (pun intended) I have some thoughts on the topic.
First, know I am not Emily Post and cannot guarantee that the various frameworks I provide for any given situation will be the most “polite” or “appropriate.” Ladies, I do not aim to please. I merely state it how I see it. However, with respect to your inquiry, I did refer to good ole Em to see what she had to say. Her conclusion is two-fold: send handwritten cards whenever you get a gift, unless the giver is close to you in which case a verbal thank-you or email will do. This makes sense to me as it would be awkward if I hand wrote a thank-you card for my husband whenever he brought me coffee.
A few additional thoughts: I have a friend who does a fabulous job of sending handwritten thank-yous for unexpected actions or minor gifts and I LOVE it. Her cards can be a thank-you for flipping the bill at lunch one day or for bringing her coffee. I love them because they are unexpected and sincere. I know she thought about it. Also, I’m still 10 years old inside and get really excited whenever there’s a letter in the mail for me, especially when it’s not a bill.
During my intense road trip discussion, a friend brought up a good point. Handwritten thank-you letters can also be guilt-ridden and annoying. She was explaining that she doesn’t have time to write thank-you letters and she makes a point just to say “thank you.” When she gets handwritten letters for Timmy’s 2nd birthday gift which is written by Timmy’s mom on behalf of Timmy, she feels guilty for not doing the same. She also suggested it could come off as insincere and then it’s not really a thank you, just a generic sentence sent to 30 or so people.
I encourage you to go with your gut. Handwritten letters are a loss art these days and can be deeply appreciated by the receiver, especially if it’s uniquely worded. However, there are many other ways to express gratitude and with mediated communication our culture is shifting drastically, and ‘etiquette’ to such situations is shifting too. Most importantly, I think there is an expectation gap in this arena. Your friends are more than likely satiated by a verbal “thank you” where grandma would be thrilled to have a handwritten letter from you. Perhaps, fluctuating between the methods of response based on whom your receiver is may be easiest and least time-consuming.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am the mother of two young boys aged 5 and 2. While my husband is a loving man and affectionate towards me, I think he does not show enough affection to our boys. When our oldest was a toddler, my husband barely hugged him. After the birth of our second son, my husband is more generous with hugs but usually at my prompting. He has never once kissed our boys, not even as infants. I have brought it up to him and he says his father was never affectionate towards him and that’s just the way he is. How can I get my husband to open up more to the boys? I feel that if this isn’t addressed, the boys will be reluctant to go to him or approach him.
-Embraced in concern
Though I am not a therapist and my education and experience does not revolve around such things, I am a communicator. I will do my best to help you from a communicative stand point.
You mention that your husband has hugged based on your prompting. This is encouraging, as it alludes to an openness in him either toward you, your sons, change or all of the above. This may be something he hasn’t even acknowledged or processed yet, but it is hopeful. He has admitted that he lacks the comfort to express affection due to his own upbringing. He may not know this is not normal.
As a spouse, we are provided the unique opportunity to see into each others dysfunctional family dynamics (hello in-laws) and then mesh together and make our own distinct family issues (hello marriage).
I want to share one of my families many daily mantras. “I cannot change others, only myself.” You cannot make your husband do something he is not open to. You cannot make your husband open to new behavior. You cannot change your husband’s childhood socialization. You can, however, change your behavior, expectations, boundaries and communicative interactions.
Research has shown that touch (affection) lowers infant mortality. Why do I share this? Simple: I think this research highlights something deeper in our humanity. We need affection. We’ve all met those gals with daddy issues. Unfortunately, they are easy to spot (cough cough Lindsey Lohan cough cough). Daddy issues are not good things. Father wounds as they are often referred by, can produce significant issues in children as they walk into adulthood. Realistically, a two-year-old does not hold a vast vocabulary so touch and tone become major players in teaching interaction, appropriate behavior and expressing messages like love, joy, contentment, etc.
Your concern is appropriate. When you attempt to communicate this to your husband, refrain from being accusatory or aggressive. “You don’t _____” or “You need to _______” will not get you where you want to go. Rather, take the time to describe the actual behavior and then give your interpretation and ask for some sort of confirmation (“Is this true?” “What do you think?”). Providing your husband a chance to respond to something specific rather than an idea or conclusion. This minimizes defensiveness and provides a path for the discussion. Focusing on behavior statements that don’t end with an assumption, rather a question or inquiry provides doors for discussion.
When it comes to parenting (like most other things) we tend to utilize or fall back on what we know and that is not always what is best. It’s my hope that you and your spouse can have an honest and productive conversation with respect to your goals in parenting and keep the focus on who and what you aspire to give your children and not on what is most comfortable for you. If parenting does one thing well, it highlights our weaknesses as humans and motivates us to grow beyond them.
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[featured image via job search]