Apologies and gratitude


Thank you ……………. Sorry

Most readers of this blog have probably used these words countless number of times in their lives, at various occasions, to convey a plethora of emotions ranging from genuine gratitude to faked apologies. This post does not necessarily portend to relate to all these emotions, but rest assured a genuine attempt has been made to do so.

I am sure all of us have been taught as youngsters (by youngsters I am referring to the age when we actually learnt to speak to express our emotions a little better as small kids) to convey our gratitude to anybody who helps us out in any situation. Something as simple as somebody helping us lift a heavy bag, helping us get on a train, helping us out with directions, all of these people deserve our gratitude and we were taught to express the same by saying a simple ‘Thank you’.

On similar lines, we were also taught to apologize whenever we intentionally or inadvertently committed a mistake. We were taught to be sensitive to people around us, sensitive to their likes and dislikes, sensitive to the fact that our actions might cause them discomfort, cause them hurt. We were taught that saying a ‘Sorry’ might help them assuage their temporary inconvenience caused due to our actions.

For some of us this became second nature, but for a majority of us, these became forgotten expressions of gratitude and apology.

As we grew older and became more sophisticated and learnt the ways of the world, we started forming our own interpretations of people, the work they do, their duties and automatically our expectations from them increased manifold. Suddenly, the valet who opened the door for us everyday with a smile started being viewed critically. We started noticing whether his shirt was impeccably ironed, whether his body posture was that befitting a professional valet, whether the courtesy he showed us was adequate in comparison to our ‘standing in society’, and a myriad of other unnecessary things. And then we started judging his behavior on the job keeping in mind all these variables. Somewhere in this mix, we completely forgot the fact that hey, this was still a guy who was holding open the door for us whenever we walked in an out of the building, and that simple act still deserved our gratitude. Somewhere the simple ‘Thank you’ simply stopped being uttered.

Similarly, as we grew older, we once again started making ourselves the ‘center’ of our world. We started taking things and people for granted. At some levels we started behaving like what we think and what we do are the most important things in the world and nothing else mattered. Even if our actions caused people discomfort, we chose to ignore the same by telling ourselves that such minor indiscretions on our part did not matter much. Even when we were in elevators inconveniencing others by putting on our backpacks and continuously bumping into them, we didn’t care because we were lazy enough not to hold the backpacks in our hands. Even when we jumped queues in our hurry to get the best seats to the show, we didn’t care that the others in the queue had actually patiently waited their turn. Even when we jumped the lunch line to get that last piece of cheesecake, we didn’t care much for the others who might have wanted the same.

Age, money and a standing in society brought about an extremely callous and careless attitude in us. It taught us that saying a ‘Sorry’ or a ‘Thank You’ didn’t quite matter as much as it did when we were younger. It taught us that to apologize or to show gratitude was not quite necessary when you were ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ than others. It didn’t matter as these were unimportant traits which did not matter in the ‘bigger picture of life’.

Wonder when we will all come back to the ground and realize that each and every act that we do impacts others in more ways than one. Wonder when reality will bite us and we will realize that it is those random acts of kindness and gratitude that make us a more advanced and mature species than most others that exist in this world. Wonder when we will finally realize that simple expressions of apology and gratitude will go a long way in helping us get a little something extra from all the people we deal with on a daily basis.

Image courtesy: http://www.cartoonstock.com

This post was selected as one of Blogadda’s Tangy Tuesday Picks on August 13, 2013.


11 thoughts on “Apologies and gratitude

  1. I do agree with you that common courtesies is lacking today. Professional ethics are deemed more important than human sentiments in work life. In doing so I don’t know how many good friends have just remained as good colleagues. We also deprive ourselves the chance to mature as good human beings. I liked the post a lot Jairam.

    • @Padmanabha, even professional ethics don’t ask us not to be courteous or apologetic. And it is not just at our workplace that we have become so rude and uncourteous, it is a general trend that I notice nowadays.

  2. I think some of this should be taught in schools and by parents. I know many small children who address their class mates as ‘nee’ instead of ‘thaan’ (In Malayalam). ‘nee’ is considered to be the norm for closeness, among close friends that is okay but are all classmates our close friends? These children address other adults also as ‘nee’ which sometimes makes me cringe. Parents should try to inculcate these courtesies from a young age to make it a habit.

    • @Suba, absolutely agree with you, things like these are learnt only if they are taught at a very young age. Nice point you make about the ‘nee’ vs ‘thaan’ part, not all classmates are our close friends 🙂

  3. These days even kids are rude..But what is appalling is the attitude of the previous generation..”It taught us that to apologize or to show gratitude was not quite necessary when you were ‘bigger’ and ‘better’ than others”

    Just because that some one is elder and more experienced it does not give them a right to verbal diarrhea to make a point to some one younger and who is willing discuss various point of views and come to a common understanding..

    Similarly just some one is close it does not mean that we need not have courtesies exchanged.It might sound too formal but sometimes even with siblings , parents and spouse I make it a point that we exchange a sorry or thank you whenever required.

    • @Paatiamma, you seem to have understood the complete gist of the post as I had intended to 🙂 Good to see that people actually understand what I post 🙂

      Yes, closeness to a person should not determine whether one uses the obvious courtesies or not. And you make an awesome point about elders steam rolling youngsters with sermons about how they are right just because they are older 🙂

  4. People tend to show respect to people more powerful than themselves, and do not care to give due respect to people less powerful than themselves.
    When a more powerful person ill-treats them, they let off steam on the first available person less powerful than themselves.

    • @Proactive Indian, absolutely agree with you on that one. Power equations play a big role in apologizing and showing gratitude in India (and probably all over the world as well). Quite sad, that we resort to saying a ‘thank you’ and a ‘sorry’ only if it has any ‘material consequence’ in our lives, don’t you think???

  5. When one utters ‘sorry’ or ‘thanks’ it reflects in their voice or eyes, of being genuine or otherwise. With time and experience one can differentiate this. but an apology or thanks from the heart reaches to the other person without a medium. but sadly these courteous behaviours are reserved only for people above in social ranking or to extract a favour from someone. You have dealt with a very important topic. and truly deserve the TT pick.

    • @Kalpana, that was such a beautiful comment encapsulating all that I wanted to convey in the post so crisply. Yes, the eyes, the expressions, the body language, all convey the emotions being expressed when one shows his gratitude or apologizes. And like you say, today, these expressions are reserved only for ‘people who matter’, quite sad, no!!! 😦

      Thanks for the kind words regarding the post, truly appreciate it 🙂

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