Harriet Walker: 'Someone really successful wouldn't be bothered about whether someone was annoyed with them'

 

Share
Related Topics

You've probably just spent at least two weeks feeling and being very grateful. Or maybe you haven't. That's the thing about remembering to show your gratitude: it serves to put everyone else's lack thereof in rather harsh relief.

I can never decide whether my own rather burdensome sense of gratitude and humility is a good or bad thing, whether it's polite or actually intrinsically selfish: is it passive-aggressive that I say thank you so much? Am I only saying thank you quite so often because that is the level of gratitude and servile diffidence that I believe I myself am due?

It's a psychological hell of my own making.

All I know is, I was raised in a family where you say thank you, sometimes more than once. You also pay people a lot of compliments and every third word that comes out of your mouth (when you're not saying thank you) is "sorry". Every 10 minutes, you ask if the person is "OK". Then you pat their arm.

There's no better time of year to gauge people's gratitude levels. It sounds bad to say that, as if I'm a needy matron aunt whose sole opportunity for interaction is the handing over of money to relations who neither like nor care about her. Anyway, I don't mean it quite like that. I don't think gratitude should be a social currency – I just think it's interesting that people's spirit levels for thanks should be set at such wildly differing heights.

It's something I believe is directly proportional to the amount they already have, their expectations of what they will receive and the amount they're willing to give. The lower the first two, the higher the latter, I usually find, and the higher the gratitude that goes with it. Sometimes, having a massive sense of entitlement shunts all the gratitude out of your bod. And gratitude, like a virus and Countdown, cannot survive without a host.

You see it in the smallest members of the family, the 2ft-tall ones who sit next to a pile of booty twice their size and work their way through with no remorse at their conspicuous consumption. They are the tiny tyrants for whom Christmas was invented, the ones with no concept of the spirit of giving. They believe only in taking, and we love them for it.

It's because, along with their lack of gratitude, comes the purest and more honest expression of satisfaction and joy. When you're constantly saying thank you for everything – be that a Christmas present, someone holding a door or when someone is rude to you but you're scared of them – you can never really mean it. Being free of social expectations, of the weight of required gratitude, means that, like a medieval king, you can scatter your favour as you please. And people will love you for it.

For us apologetic types, a more Uriah Heep-ian existence beckons. No one who was too thankful ever rose above their allotted shelf of fabulosity. Sadly, the arrogance of the ingrate – which, once you're beyond teething and teenage years, is definitely a bad thing – seems also to be part of the alchemic recipe for people who do well.

For instance, I've worked out that I only ever feel at my most settled and unworried when I am mostly certain that nobody is cross with me – that's why I ask almost constantly whether people are OK, not because I am nice enough to really wonder. I've also worked out that someone really successful wouldn't be bothered about whether someone was annoyed with them; they'd just power on through without saying thank you – not even once, let alone the five times I say it.

This deficit is why Christmas can be such a troublesome time. When you really consider it, the differential in gratitude between even members of the same family means that gifts that cost the same amount in pounds end up with a value far higher or lower when it comes to thanks expected.

This is why all of us probably had a massive fight on Christmas Day. And this is why my New Year's resolution is to find my gratitude equilibrium. Because it doesn't make sense spending time doing something that I would be inordinately grateful for, only for it to be received with a shrug and never mentioned again and for me to then feel annoyed or sad about it. To be plain, this scenario is clearly my fault for expecting too much.

Rather, I will reconsider just how grateful everyone I know is and take a median. That way, you become well balanced. Happy new year.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
9.4 million people watched the first of the three-way debates at the last election. The audience for the one on Thursday is likely to be far lower.  

David Cameron needs to learn some new tricks – and fast

Steve Richards
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor