You probably know someone who can’t seem to be grateful and say two simple words - thank you. Unfortunately, we all come across people who will take and take from you with no intention of ever expressing an ounce of gratitude. And this creates a sense of resentment and anger towards that person that can harm your inner well-being.
Learning how to deal with ungrateful people is a skill worth developing because it can protect your inner peace. And not only do you protect your own personal well-being, but you are also able to cultivate healthy relationships that don’t result in tension any time the other person requests a favor.
So, if you’re ready to learn how to respond to ungrateful people, then this article is for you. We will walk through steps you and I can take to respond in a healthy way to those people who make us shake our heads at their lack of gratitude.
- Why does gratitude even matter
- The role of gratitude in relationships
- 6 ways to deal with ungrateful people
- Wrapping up
Why does gratitude even matter
I have thought to myself many times throughout my life that I just need to “get over it” when someone doesn’t express gratitude. But the “get over it” method isn't the best way to deal with ungrateful people.
And that’s because we need to hear the “thank you” and words of appreciation in order to feel a sense of connection with that person.
A study in 2010 found that when others express gratitude towards us, we feel a stronger sense of community and appreciation for that person. And this in turn strengthens that relationship.
It’s only logical to conclude then that without the magic ingredient of gratitude, we instead feel bitter and distance our connection to that person.
I remember in college I had a friend who didn’t have a car that I willingly gave rides to all over the place. I was happy to do it at first.
But my kindness quickly was taken advantage of as the friend would call at 2 am for a ride when she was intoxicated. And when I did go and pick her up, she never said thank you.
My anger festered inside for months because I used to struggle with honest communication. When I finally did say something, she was upset with me and our friendship ultimately had to end.
Sometimes, gratitude is literally what can make or break a relationship.
The role of gratitude in relationships
Healthy relationships involve both giving and taking. And when both parties express gratitude for the contributions of the other, you experience mutual joy and satisfaction.
The research shows that gratitude helps us both develop and maintain relationships with others.
I can point to this firsthand in so many instances in my life. When I was in grad school, one of my classmates offered to share her notes and study templates with me. This act of kindness led to us developing a deep friendship and she is still one of my best friends to this day.
If gratitude is lacking in a relationship, then someone is bound to feel frustrated and unappreciated. And from my experience, these relationships can rarely last long term because one side is bound to blow up at the other once that person hits their breaking point.
And while you can’t personally control another person’s behavior, learning how to deal with and respond to an ungrateful person can help you both determine whether to mend or abandon the relationship.
6 ways to deal with ungrateful people
As a fellow soldier in the trenches of dealing with ungrateful people, I have learned a few helpful tips that I am confident can help you respond to ungrateful people more gracefully.
1. Identify what exactly is irritating you
First things first, it’s important to understand why the lack of gratitude is triggering a response in you.
I’m not sure where I heard this, but I heard that the things that trigger you are often a mirror into your own issues. Yikes. That statement hit me right in the core because I realized it’s true.
Sometimes our frustration with a lack of gratitude indicates that we ourselves are not showing gratitude in the way we should. Or in some instances, it’s a sign that we’re trying to control how the other person behaves or feels in a situation, even though there are some things we can't control.
So before you give in to that gut reaction of wanting to tell the person how rude and ungrateful they are, take a step back. Ask yourself the hard question or why their behavior is triggering such a strong response in you.
Because sometimes, what you end up discovering is that in order to deal with an ungrateful person you need to first deal with your own personal triggers and deep-rooted issues.
2. Communicate openly about your feelings
Sometimes the other person doesn’t even know that they are not being grateful. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. This is why you can’t expect others to read your mind and you need to communicate openly.
I remember I used to bake cookies to bring to work on Fridays as a special treat to share with my co-workers. There was always this one particular coworker who never said thank you and it started to get under my skin.
One day I finally said something to him about how I felt hurt by his lack of gratitude. As it turned out, the co-worker didn’t realize that I baked the cookies myself and thought corporate brought them in every Friday.
All it took was a little communication to clear up my frustration. Logically, I ended up feeling pretty silly for having so much angst towards him when he didn’t even know what was going on.
3. Try to genuinely put yourself in their shoes
I know you’ve heard this advice before. But in many cases, a little compassion and a shift of perspective can help you better understand why the person is responding without a sense of gratitude.
One day I had a patient in the clinic who was terribly rude to all of our staff. No matter what you did to try to help him feel better, he was grumpy and short with you.
It wasn’t until I got into a deeper conversation with him and learned that his pain only allows him to sleep for a maximum of two hours a night that I started to understand where his attitude was stemming from. Shoot, if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep a night sometimes I’m a monster. And I don’t have chronic pain.
While I won’t pretend that learning this insight totally excused his behavior, it did help me have more empathy for him and allowed us to have a more effective patient-provider relationship moving forward.
4. Think twice before saying yes
If someone remains ungrateful despite your open communication about your needs and frustration with their behavior, you may have to reconsider saying yes to helping that person out.
I have a family member who I love dearly. But this family member has a tendency to want me to babysit their child often. And while I don’t mind babysitting, I also have a schedule and need a certain amount of heads up.
I used to always drop whatever I was doing even if it was last minute and say yes to babysitting. And it frustrated me that this family member didn’t recognize the sacrifices I was making to help her out.
I tried to openly discuss my frustrations with the situation and while the family member said they totally understood my feelings, their behavior didn’t change.
So I have learned that sometimes I have to say no. And if I do decide to say yes, I know that I can’t be frustrated when I am not met with appreciation from this family member for helping her out. Because if I go in with that expectation, I am bound to leave aggravated.
5. Focus on what you can control
The truth of the matter is you can only control your own attitude and behavior at the end of the day. If someone wants to be ungrateful, you may not be able to change that.
But instead of letting that person’s lack of gratitude ruin your day, you can choose to remain in a state of joy and gratitude. If you do decide to let their attitude and behavior influence how you feel in a negative manner, it is your choice.
So when I can feel my blood beginning to boil when interacting with someone who is being downright rude and ungrateful, I remind myself that I am giving up my inner peace and sense of personal power by letting them dictate my emotions.
I try to take it one step further and use it as motivation to express increased appreciation and gratitude to all those I encounter after that interaction because those types of interactions remind me how important it is to not behave in that way.
6. Eliminate or limit toxic relationships
Now I understand this is not always plausible, but in some cases, this really is the healthiest option for you.
If you openly communicate how that person’s lack of gratitude is influencing your relationship and they decide not to change, you may have to determine whether or not that is a relationship you want to continue to engage in.
Because as we just stated, some people will not change and that’s their choice.
But once again, what you can control is your attitude and behavior. And sometimes the easiest way to make sure that you don’t get sucked into a negative pit of ingratitude and continual frustration is to either limit your time around that person or don’t engage in the relationship at all.
I don’t recommend making this decision immediately when you are frustrated by someone's behavior. Take time to reflect if limiting or eliminating the relationship is truly the right decision for you. If you can still say after calming your emotions down in relation to the situation you need to limit or eliminate the relationship, then you can rest assured it wasn’t just a gut emotional reaction that stemmed from frustration.
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Not everyone is going to say “thank you” or express appreciation to you. And as annoying as it is when people are ungrateful, you still have control over your reaction and attitude in the situation. By using the tips from this article you can gracefully navigate interactions with ungrateful people and perhaps take steps towards healing some wounds in your current relationships.
How do you deal with ungrateful people? Do you know someone who never seems to react gratefully to something positive? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!