Because You Are Polite

by Ginger Philbrick

Dear Teen,

This is the last of the columns I will write to you and, perhaps, it is the most important of all. My subject is a simple phrase, one that people long to hear but too often do not. I receive more mail about this phrase than about any other matter. It is a sentence of two words which, when said sincerely, add kindness to any situation.  Although you may guess the answer is “You rock!” you are mistaken; the answer is, “Thank you.”

The opportunities to say it are plentiful throughout the day. From the stranger who holds the door open for you when you have your hands full, to the great-aunt who sends you a birthday gift, there will likely be many who deserve your gratitude.

Just as there are many circumstances where “thank you” is appropriate, there are many appropriate forms of thank yous. In response to casual kindnesses, such as someone picking up a book you dropped, or giving you a ride to a game, or telling you what time it is, a simple, sincere “thank you” is sufficient. When the favor or gift is larger, such as a week-end stay at a friend’s home, a Christmas gift, or multiple hours of tutoring to help understand the mystery of geometry, a handwritten note of thanks is in order.

Please underline and remember this: Saying thank you is not a chore. It is an opportunity to make the gift giver feel appreciated.

If you’re not sure whether to write a thank-you note, write one. Some of us make the mistake of thinking others don’t notice if we omit thanking them. Or we tell ourselves that the other person somehow thinks we were deserving of their attentiveness and therefore does not expect an expression of gratitude. Such reasoning is simply not accurate. I have received many letters and comments from adults who are puzzled, hurt and even offended by the teens in their life who have neglected to thank them for their gifts, both actions and items, given in love. You have the power to make sure that no one who has given to you feels that way.

If you would like help with writing a thank you note, your best resource could be your Mom or Dad, or some other polite person you know. The internet is ready to help, too. Oh, and I would be delighted to help if you contacted me through the email address below!

Now I would like to tell you that having you read this column over the past few weeks has been your gift to me. I hope that you will take at least one or two of the suggestions offered to heart and practice them until they become natural to you. I promise you they will make you more comfortable as you maneuver through these exciting, but sometimes difficult, teen years.

Godspeed and thank you!

Ginger Philbrick is the owner of Because You Are Polite LLC. You are invited to email your manners questions to her and she will respond as time and space allow. You may contact her at