Thanks. Thanks!

Things I Want To Be Able To Do Without Feeling Like I’m Being Unspeakably Rude.

1. I want to end emails and other text-based requests with “Thanks.” rather than “Thanks!”

You’ve encountered this, right? I think this is the best example, so I started with it so you can get bored and leave any time after this point. Have you ever noticed feeling like you’re supposed to put that exclamation point there, even if you’re not feeling at ALL exclaimy? Do you ever feel obligated to stick that explanation point on, even if you’re really annoyed, because the word looks rude without it? And then you can run into that thing where the person you’re emailing KNOWS you’re annoyed and KNOWS your exclamation point is disingenuous and non-sincere, so it NOW looks snarky, but you have to do it anyway, because it would be RUDE not to.

I know it’s totally possible to skip the exclamation point, and I know some people have no problem doing it, and it’s never even occurred to others to use an exclamation point when they don’t feel it suits their current mood and level of enthusiastic emphasis. Of course there are people like that and maybe you’re one of them, and it’s great that you’re not held captive to punctuation angst. But for me, and others like me, because there definitely are others like me and I’m not totally out of left field with this one, I would really like to evolve past the compulsory exclamation point. I mean, maybe you’re being firm, not rude. Maybe it’s an email that just requires a “Thanks.” and not a “Thanks!” But when you (I) hover over the send button without adding that exclamation point, you (I) have a moment of sincere doubt, just knowing it’s possible for someone to take personal offense to your tone.

And here’s the thing, maybe your tone is totally intended! Maybe you really don’t WANT to sound perky and chipper as an exclamation point implies. But knowing that people of a certain sort take personal offense to tone, you have to fake the tone. Which is a whole new level of self-insulting and I’m getting agitated about it which means I’m about to type the same point 15 different ways until I feel like my rage has been stamped out via my fingertips.

Let me skip all that and save some irritation for the other points you may or may not read. It’s not so much that the exclamation point is required, but that the tone associated with the exclamation point is required, therefore necessitating that exclamation point after the word thanks. Should you neglect to use it, your email may be read with a firm or – heaven forfend – even strident tone, which would be unforgivable, EVEN IF YOU WERE, IN FACT, BEING FIRM AND STRIDENT AS YOU TYPED IT.

And look – I know people are super sensitive to pointing stuff like this out – but I just quizzed my husband, who sends emails all day, on how he feels about not adding an exclamation point to the word thanks at the end of an email, and it’s honestly never crossed his mind that it’s a thing. I really don’t think men spend as much time thinking about how their tone will be perceived in an email in such detail that the punctuation after the word thanks is a huge concern. But I do. I have consciously gone back and forth over a single point of punctuation after a single word in an email, and if I’ve done it, based on my theory of being the most average person on earth, plenty of other people have as well.

That’s this point. I want to be able to not use it without angsting over it. I want to move past it, like I know many people have managed. If I’m feeling “thanks” instead of “thanks!,” I want to say that without giving a rip what the other person may interpret about my tone. EXCLAMATION POINT DELIBERATELY LEFT OFF TO FORM A NEUTRAL CLOSING.

2. I want to be able to disagree with someone without conceding their point.

So, if you’re brave enough to disagree with someone on Twitter, you’re being stupid and it’s not worth your time because other people are landmines that will ruin your day on purpose. In general, it is impossible to disagree with the standard Twitter person without insinuation that you’re starting a fight, being a mean girl, or attacking someone. Just… just fucking stop it with that.

But aside from that, say you (I) see someone make a point you disagree with. Your choices are this: say nothing, do nothing, close the computer, move on, pretend you never saw anything at all, possibly move. OR, say, “Hey, I disagree with that.”

I’m skipping over the people who believe that when two adults disagree, they’re fighting and do that whole thing where they watch the “fight” and type instigatey little sub tweets without @-ing anyone. You people just fucking suck so hard. Stop it. Just join in the conversation. It’s a free Twitter and you’re allowed. But I’m skipping that because it’s just… it’s too much for me to work though with appropriate polite punctuation while I’m still sitting in bed in the morning.

Skipping that. Instead, just the simple scenario. You’ve gone and done it and you’ve spoken up and said, “I disagree with that.” So, assuming two normal adults, you go back and forth a bit about your conflicting opinions, and somehow, by the grace of Superman, you manage to escape the attention of the subtweeting instigators and just go back and forth with each other.

Eventually, that conversation has to end, right? Do you ever feel obligated – and I know some of you never do and that’s fine – to formally end the discussion with some kind of, “Oh, well, I guess we’re both right! Nice talking to you!” sort of gesture? EVEN IF YOU TOTALLY DON’T BELIEVE THE OTHER PERSON IS RIGHT AT ALL?

It’s just the polite thing to do. It seems that in a lot of social media, people are unable to consider a conversation closed and fully resolved unless both parties agree to give a little ground to each other or something like that. And if you don’t, you are fighting and being mean and rude. Sometimes I don’t want to give any ground and I don’t think you’re also kind of right and I think I’m ALL THE WAY right, and I don’t respect your opinion at all (thought of course I respect your right to have an opinion, even if it’s a dumb one) and I want to end the conversation there with YOU KNOWING that I don’t think you’re right. And I want that to not feel rude. I want to be totally at ease with being firm about how wrong I think you are without you – or the peanut gallery – assuming we now hate each other because I was such a dick for not just agreeing with you.

That needs to be a thing that’s allowed. Or a thing I allow myself, because no one is actually in charge of that. I need to be able to say, hey, you’re wrong, I’m always going to think you’re wrong, and I’m not going to acknowledge that you might be a little right BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE A HUGE LIE BECAUSE YOU ARE SO WRONG. And the other person should feel able to do the same thing with me. And life should move on.

Actually, I don’t have trouble doing this one. I do usually have trouble with my surprise over other people’s attitude toward it. I’ve disagreed with a casual Twitter friend before, you know, just talking away on Twitter about our opinions about something dumb, and had the other person say something about how she wishes we weren’t fighting. We’re not! I’m just telling you that I believe you’re wrong and you believe I’m wrong and that’s totally something adult people can do in real life except apparently not on social media. If I haven’t called someone a fuckface for her opinion, I really don’t think it’s crossed the line into rude.

3. There was a whole other thing here I decided wasn’t worth the hassle, which kind of perfectly illustrates my overall point.

Anyway. Here’s something else instead of what I had here before. On a work forum the other day, I saw a woman say, “I don’t mean to sound firm, but…” WHY DON’T YOU MEAN TO SOUND FIRM? YOU’RE MAKING A POINT. YOU CAN BE FIRM. How have the niceness police gotten so out of control that a woman completely denies being “firm,” even when she’s speaking about something she feels very strongly about? How have things gotten to the point that rudeness is an unforgivable affront, and “non-super-niceness” is the new rude?

I want to be done with all of this, because it’s weird an inappropriate for me to worry that I’m being mean and rude when I’m just being neutral. I don’t want Penelope to grow up thinking being rude is okay, but I also don’t want her to feel like she needs to let that dude with the bananas go ahead of her in the shopping line just because it’s expected, if she doesn’t feel like it.

I know these are all me things and not every person questions how other people might view her motivations if she says what she wants to say the way she wants to say it. And truthfully, the older I get, the less fucks I have to give about this kind of stuff because the people who know me as a person know who I am and if someone else wants to deliberately misinterpret me, fine. Go ahead. Don’t like me. The point in life where you realize you absolutely do not need everyone to like you has probably been the highlight of my life so far. But how, as an adult, am I still worried about a stupid exclamation point at the end of an email? How is that a thing?

As always, I flame out spectacularly when trying to pull everything together into a cohesive topic with one real conclusion. I guess I don’t have an overarching conclusion. I’m frustrated and I have been for a long time, and I’m kind of putting it out there to get that whole “yeah, me too!” thing that the people who read this blog have always been good for, with other examples of the same phenomenon and how they (you) think about the whole thing and how you cope or don’t cope with it, even if it is also a 2000 word rambling epic with no actual conclusion but just random fist shaking at the sky.

 

33 thoughts on “Thanks. Thanks!

  1. Kate

    So, I’ve dealt with the “thanks” thing by signing off like this:

    Thanks,

    Kate Lastname

    The “,” feels neutral to me. No “!” or “.” or “?” or “$#%# you” or hearts or flowers or other strangely conveyed email tones. That’s how I end pretty much every work email, and many of the personal emails, too.

    Kate Reply:

    So funny. I came over here to comment the same thing, and my name is also Kate.

    Cherie Reply:

    I also came over to offer this solution and now that I see it has already been offered, I just want credit for making the effort. But my name is not Kate, so maybe it doesn’t count.

    Thanks,
    Cherie

    Alice Reply:

    Ha, I also came to do the same thing. Thanks-comma-ers unite?

    Cass Reply:

    Ditto! Ha. Yay for the neutral comma? It feels more “conversational” to me … Like you’re not really ending the conversation peppy or firm, just casual. I don’t know. 2 cents. :)

    Nina Reply:

    thanks-comma-users unite! (she exclaimed)

  2. Sunshine

    “If I haven’t called someone a fuckface for her opinion, I really don’t think it’s crossed the line into rude.” I support this sentiment.

  3. Charleen

    Random fist shaking is sometimes the only option.

    I also angst over punctuation choices, though I usually give it more thought after the fact. Tweets, emails, what have you… I usually just write them out quickly and hit send without thinking too much about it. (Unless, of course, it’s something that requires a lot of thought and second-guessing, which I just don’t send that many of, but when I do it’s a whole other thing.)

    But then I’ll read it again later, and be like, “Why did I use so many exclamation points? I sound ridiculous.” Or, on the other end of the spectrum, “Huh, that sounds kind of bitchy. I didn’t mean to sound bitchy.” Or any number of things in between.

  4. June

    YES. to the exclamation point. I find I actually use it with the people that piss me off the most. Like I’m trying to disguise my inner annoyance with them by using an exclamation point. If they REALLY annoy me, I often get the urge to throw in a smiley face. What’s up with that?

    In general though, I tend to use “thanks” as my sign off, so I follow it with a comma instead — problem averted. lol.

  5. Molly

    This is absolutely a difference between men and women, generally speaking. Of course there are exceptions blah blah etc… But generally speaking, these are things that women think about and worry about and men don’t. Men spend very little time worrying about how their tone is read or what other people think of them. I’m so jealous of that! My husband, for instance, is completely different in work emails versus personal emails. It took me awhile to realize that he wasn’t upset with me, he was just at work. So his emails to me from work are always more professional sounding, even though their personal emails. Similarly, I just had a birthday and several of the men who wished me a happy birthday on Facebook did so without an exclamation point. It reads as monotone and rude even though I know that’s not what they intended. Anyhoo, this is all to say that you’re right and I agree with you. Thanks!

  6. Katie

    I usually try the “agree to disagree” when I firmly believe I am right and the other person is wrong. What I want to say is “let’s agree that you’re wrong” but oddly that doesn’t go over as well.

  7. Life of a Doctor's Wife

    There are so many Best Parts of this. I really loved punctuation angst and NEUTRAL CLOSING. And many others. All excellent.

    There was an article… Somewhere… this week about Resting Bitch Face, which I have. And the article mentioned something that I do, which is that I worked to sort of train my face into doing a non-bitch face when I am at work or in public… Something like a neutral half smile type thing. And I kind of think that, while this is indicative of a larger phenomenon surrounding women and what we all expect women to do and be like and look like, I also think it’s kind of related to your point today. The relationship to your point part being, sometimes I just want to have my normal face… And not have other people worry that I am upset or sad or mad at them. It is just my face. And it should be perfectly OK to end a sentence with a period and to allow my face to exist in its natural state. I should not feel like my Normal Face is impinging on others’ enjoyment on life, or that I am being somehow impolite if I am not affixing Pleasant Expressions to my face at all times.

  8. Lawyerish

    Sometimes I think the thanks-with-exclamation-point is passive-aggressive. It depends on the context, but I have seen it used that way, as when someone is asking you to do an unpleasant or laborious task, especially one that isn’t in your usual bailiwick. The intonation I imagine in that case is like the boss in Office Space. “Why don’t you go ahead and come in this weekend to play a little catch-up? Thaaaaaaanks.”

    So in many cases, I believe we should skip the “thanks” altogether. I’m old enough to remember a time when EVERY EMAIL did not need to include “thanks.” It was a better, happier time for everyone.

    I avoid social media arguments for all the reasons you mentioned. People get SO bent out of shape, and I am so excruciatingly aware of tone and the limits of this mode of communication that it makes it really not worth the time and trouble, never mind the futility of it.

    In person, I routinely get into debates with people and we disagree about even very complex and serious issues, and I CAN BE FIRM ALL I WANT, and YET, no one gets their feelings hurt because out in the world, we can actually separate lively discourse from personal attacks. No concession of points or backpedaling required.

  9. Megan

    I have had to carefully construct my emails to grieving families without sounding too cheerful and without sticking my foot in my mouth. I usually have to send them an email to proof a video tribute or urn engraving. I have now decided to end with “Thank you, Megan lastname.” It’ll do for now.

    As far as disagreements on social media, it has to REALLY get me upset for me to even say anything anymore. I don’t typically have the energy to start a discussion (and that’s what it is, a discussion, not a fight) about something and have it last all day. There never seems to be an end anyway.

    Swistle Reply:

    I like the “Thank you,/ Name” method, too.

  10. MomQueenBee

    I’ve appropriated the dash for when I don’t want to close an email perkily. Thanks–

    MomQueenBee

    LeighTX Reply:

    This is my default option too. The dash is neutral, not as terse as a period and not as perky as an exclamation point.

  11. Maggie

    Since having a daughter I’ve found myself working much harder to generally remove phrases like “I don’t mean to be firm (harsh, rude, pushy)” from conversation because I think it’s important to model for my daughter the fact that it’s just fine for women to have opinions, express them, be firm, etc. I really didn’t learn that when I was younger and, in fact was socialized pretty hard to be friendly and nonconfrontational all the live long day, and it’s bullshit. I want her to speak up, say what she means, and not apologize (unless it really is something rude and then an apology is obviously the way to go).

  12. Swistle

    I am finding that not only the exclamation point but also the EMOTICON is feeling obligatory. Like, I can’t just say “Thanks!” and feel confident that I am still sounding friendly, I ALSO have to add a smiley-face. Or else it might seem FIRM.

    I hate that I spend time thinking about what my boss meant when I said no, I couldn’t work in half an hour for the client I already told her I wouldn’t work with anymore, and she replies “No worries!” What does that MEAN? I had to be like, “It means, ‘I read your reply and felt I had to say something in reply, and wanted it to sound friendly,’ that’s ALL. It is GOOD to be analytical, Brain, but this is TAKING IT TOO FAR.”

  13. Natalie

    I, on the other hand, find it nearly impossible to PUT an exclamation point. It feels unprofessional in my job. Not saying any of you are wrong, I’m saying this is my personal hangup.

    I also go with “thanks, name” or if I have requested something specific, “thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.”.

  14. LeighTX

    With regard to your second point, I rarely disagree with anyone on social media. I mean, I disagree with A LOT of people, but only in my mind. To me it’s just not worth the back-and-forth and managing feelings and blah blah, and I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind anyway. I just rage a little internally, compose a stinging counterpoint to their stupid opinion, and then scroll down and move on with my day.

    I wish I could disagree with people, though, even if only so others could appreciate my stinging counterpoints.

  15. Tracy

    I work in a professional office where I’m the manager. I manage mostly women and I am frequently called “mean” or a “bitch” for having a professional disagreement. Apparently you can only be nice if you agree and have the exact same opinion as everyone else. Thanks!

  16. Sarah!

    I use a lot of exclamation points. I often find myself going through emails after I write them and taking out half the exclamation points. I like the “thanks, name” method when I feel like I’ve already used too many, or I want to sound more formal or less pleased.

    Also, maybe try something like “It’s been an interesting/enlightening discussion… I still don’t agree with you, but I respect your right to hold that opinion.” It feels conclusive enough that you don’t feel obligated to respond if they continue to argue their point, without conceding any right-ness to a wrong idea!

  17. Ruby

    Sometimes I feel like it’s gotten to the point that PERIODS IN GENERAL indicate a…firm tone. I mean, “Okay!” and “Okay.” seem to have totally different meanings! If I reply to a text or email with “Okay!” it implies “Yes! I am one hundred percent in agreement with you! Let’s do the thing you just suggested! I’m not only on board, but also excited!” while “Okay.” sounds almost passive-aggressive. “Okay.” implies, “I am not, in fact, okay with the interaction that just took place. But FINE WHATEVER WE’LL DO IT YOUR WAY.”

    I mean, part of me knows that punctuation is SUPPOSED to be used to indicate tone. But then again, periods are not supposed to be used to indicate seriousness. They indicate the end of a sentence. “Okay.” SHOULD mean, “I’m okay with that and I have nothing further to add.”

    Also, I can’t figure out a way to apologize in an email without sounding weird. “Sorry!” sounds like, “Yeah, I messed up, but honestly who even cares!” while “Sorry.” sounds like, “There, I apologized. Happy?”

    (I’m aware that the grammar in this comment looks weird. I couldn’t figure out any other way to do it.)

  18. Faith

    I just wanted to say thanks(!) for linking to the post about the Nicholas Cage bananas, because the idea of banana-importance made my day back then and it was nice to relive that./! (The punctuation angst is real)

    Also, I was thinking about you the other day when I was listening to some progressive trance music while making dinner. See, I like progressive trance. It’s maybe an unpopular choice among my demographic, mid-thirties SAHMs, but I’ve just always really liked it. And yet I’ve always felt keenly embarrassed by it. I’ve had to work hard to get over that, but in doing so I’ve also gotten a little better at caring less about stupid social constructs that require conformism for the sake of conformism. So anyway, I was thinking about you because you like K-Pop, and you don’t seem to care that that’s an unpopular choice among most of the people you know, other than the fact that when you like something you want to share it with the people you like. And that’s how I’ve decided to feel about music. And social etiquette, sort of. I really probably should have given up and deleted this comment about four sentences in but I didn’t and now I’m invested, so.

  19. Carla Hinkle

    I used to hate, really HATE when I worked at a big office and my boss(es) would tell (not ask) me to do something that was an unpleasant task or really not my job or they were pissed off and they would sign with thanks. It seemed very passive aggressive and I knew they weren’t REALLY thanking me, they were TELLING me. And who says the default closing needs to be thanks? Because it totally is and I’d like to stop THAT.

    I don’t really mind people who seem to have an actual point they have an opinion about on Twitter. What chaps my hide is people who appoint themselves Twitter POLICE and if someone tweets something they disagree with THOSE PEOPLE MUST BE PUT IN THEIR PLACE AT ALL COSTS, and the point will not be yielded until the wrong person has seen the error of their ways, including a pile on by their vengeful groupies. Regular people stating I’m wrong, feel free.

  20. Buttercup

    I have so many thoughts:
    When I started in my current field, I was just a baby lawyer and I think I seemed even younger than I was, and I was always super conscious of being too perky or seeming un-serious so I hardly ever used exclamation points and definitely no emoticons. I’ve revised this stance somewhat, especially because I spent 2.5 years cushioning and perking up and emoticon-ing all over the place with this HORROR of a boss who was always looking to point out how the tone of my emails was “harsh,” or “aggressive,” “disrespectful to [her].” And it gave me a complex and now I second guess myself all the time even though normal humans probably wouldn’t have noted anything in particular about the tone of my emails, which were generally pretty neutral.

    I gave up on “thanks” pretty early on unless I had something specific to thank the person on, and then I could say, “thanks for getting that to me so quickly [period]” and it wouldn’t seem sarcastic. I’ve gone with “Best, Buttercup” for most sign-offs and I think it works better for me.

    Your online argument issues just made me think of the post that’s been making the rounds online of the person who asserts that instead of spending $300M on Obamacare, we could’ve just given each of the ~300 million Americans a million dollars, and the people go back and forth on whether this is true, and the person insisting that $300M split 300M ways is $1M. And yes, the people who were correct should’ve let it go and just let the person be wrong but this isn’t a difference of opinions! It’s simple division!

    I don’t know what the point of this is, except to say that I think it’s OK to engage on debate when there are two sides and it would probably be good for more of us not only to learn how to engage in civil debate but also to actually do so–have our notions challenged and make us consider the other side, even if we never concede that there’s value in the other side.

  21. D

    #1 is totally a female thing (as is the use of smileys to “soften the blow”). As an attorney who frequently reviews hundreds and hundreds of emails during document review, I see the exclamation point (multiple exclamation points, sometimes) and smiley face thing so much, almost exclusively from women and it drives me freaking crazy. But. BUT! I struggle with this too when I sign off of email. I think it’s because we’re afraid of seeming bitchy. Which is stupid, because men don’t get pushback for not using exclamation points, but I think some people really do think women sound like bitches if they don’t seem chipper. Ugh, I really need to get over this.

  22. Jenny

    I just had a conversation with a friend in which he revisited a party I attended. At that party, I had a conversation with his mother (bear with me here) and we disagreed about something political. To me, the conversation was interesting and enjoyable. I thought his mother was wrong and she thought I was wrong, but there is absolutely no way in which we were fighting, arguing, or anything else. We were having an adult conversation at a party about something we were both interested in.

    My friend, however, was anxious that I might have been put off by his mother, or might not ever want to meet her again, or might have found her abrasive or mean. He was immensely relieved to find that I’d enjoyed the evening, am able to have a conversation where I disagree strenuously with someone else, and still like that person. (Obviously that doesn’t go for every topic; if you’re a big old racist I’m probably not going to want to hang out with you any more.)

    Disagreement and discussion doesn’t have to be the same thing as conflict or fighting. It can be civil discourse. Recognizing the other person as a real person helps a lot.

  23. Nina

    having an argument on social media is certainly harder than in person i think, especially if you want to avoid fighting or creating the impression there’s a fight going on.

    1.) the same sentence can be read in more than one tone. punctuation can “help” get your intention across, but the mood of the reader plays a major role in the reception of your words. also most people don’t pay so much attention to each letter, word or exclamation point ;-)
    usually this does not happen as much when speaking to another person directly, since in that situation you get to pick the tone. still the other person might not agree with your choice and “hear” aggressive nuances you didn’t want to communicate (or might just not like your voice – it happens!)

    2.) especially when NOT overthinking each statement you might write something you later regret – but can’t take back and, depending on the type of social media, can’t delete. that of course also happens when in conversation IRL, but can’t be as easily proven and dissected word for word like a mean tweet or comment.

    3.) i forgot what else i wanted to list. you get what i mean i think. also there’s trolls.

    on a personal note: i don’t like people who never argue with me. of course i’m nearly always right, but still it feels dishonest when someone agrees with me all the time. also it’s boring. i had a boyfriend like that once, it got so bad that whenever he said something i felt the need to disagree just to make him argue with me – that didn’t work, also i started to hate myself a little for being so mean. on the other hand an argument, a heated conversation, can be so great! we don’t even have to come to a satisfying conclusion where everyone agrees (with my opinion), as long as all participants respect each other and don’t feel the need to defend their position by attacking the other(s) with personal insults and such. be it online or in person, that’s my golden rule.

    oh! i remembered another point!

    4.) on social media people might feel a need to “win” in an argument more than in person, because there’s a bigger audience. they might not want to appear as the “loser”, so they can’t back down from their (wrong) opinion. if you don’t let their statement stand as “equally true” or some such they can feel demeaned by your awesome debating skills and react poorly (and feel like you want to fight and destroy them – so they get defensive easily)

  24. Erica

    You have no idea how many times I’ve moved in order to avoid disagreeing with Twitter out loud.

  25. velocibadgergirl

    1) I email people all day at work and have spent some cumulative minutes deleting and adding the exclamation after Thanks. My email tone is generally helpful / informative bordering on perky, so usually I just automatically go with the ! But sometimes it feels overzealous and sometimes I find myself wondering if it will come across snarky. So you are not alone, and I also have no answers but wish I didn’t care so much.

    2) While I would generally say I’m a pretty confident and competent person, I am something of a doormat when it comes to allowing people to be absolute jackasses in public and not saying anything because *I* don’t want to be rude. I always realize later I should’ve been “rude” (actually: just not a doormat) and the other person deserved it for being rude to me in the first place. Is it social conditioning or just a dislike of conflict? Who knows. I need to figure out a way to teach my kids to be polite but to not take shit. I need to teach myself.

    3) I had a semi-heated conversation with someone I don’t know on facebook today and she actually read my rebuttal and considered my position. I think we may have come as close as I’ve yet seen to the “agree to disagree” / “You’re wrong and I am not apologizing for thinking so” state you mentioned that I have ever experienced online.

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