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September 28, 2006

# 03 THANKS #
Myojo 2006.09

There is something that Nishikido-kun often tells me. For example, when Nishikido-kun is standing next to me and I accidently drop my wallet and he picks it up for me. At that time off the top of my head I say, "Ah, sorry!" If I do, Nishikido-kun will frown at me and say, "It's not 'sorry', it's 'thank you'!" I didn't realize until he pointed it out to me, but looking back on my life I really have the feeling that I apologized more often than I gave thanks. This is not because I did so many bad things, I just use "sorry" instead of "thank you". I guess if I worked at a company, I'd tell the invisible person at the other end of the phone line "Sorry!" too, while bowing again and again when I should really be saying "thank you". It would sound good if I said that I'm just humble, but that's not true. In my case, I have just always used "sorry" as a reaction.

If someone steps back to let you pass, what will you say in return? I think almost everyone will say "Excuse me!" Apparently, Americans will in that case always say "Thank you!" The impression the other person gets when he is told "Excuse me!" or "Thank you!" in that situation is very different. Everyone will rather feel better being thanked than apologized to. I who always says "Sorry!" no matter what the situation wonder how it would be if I said "Thank you!" instead...

If I think about it like this, I become acutely aware that I am probably a typical Japanese. And still, when I did something for somebody and they said "Sorry!" instead of "Thanks!", I felt myself getting slightly irritated. It isn't as if "Sorry!" was a bad thing to say. If someone bumped into me and said "Thanks!", I'd get pissed off and would want to really bump into them. But if they say "Excuse me!", I can honestly think "I'm sorry too, I should have paid attention." If you use the right words in the right situation with the right partner, the flow of such patterns becomes very smooth.

Returning to the topic at the beginning, what about the standpoints of Nishikido-kun and me. Nishikido-kun is a senpai for me, and it might be cold and formal, but he is someone that I always end up wanting to say "Excuse me!" to, especially in a situation where I want to give thanks. To Koyama, Tegoshi or Massu, even if the world turned upside down, I wouldn't say "Excuse me!", I wouldn't even want to say it. It would feel bad, as if I had lost. Because they are people that I shouldn't say "Excuse me!" to, but "Thanks!"

"Excuse me!" is a very useful expression. You can of course use it for an apology, but also if you extend your gratitude. That's why you choose in an instant whether to say "Excuse me!" or "Thanks!" depending on the person in front of you. But if that person feels you want to distance yourself or you don't like them, your feeling of gratitude won't come across, everything becomes ruined.

I'm going to say "Excuse me!" when I apologize. But when I'm grateful, I'm going to say "Thanks!". Nishikido-kun made me realize the importance of saying "Thanks", not relying on "Sorry!", for myself and also for the person I talk to.

To Nishikido-kun. I might still end up using "Sorry!" sometimes. I'm sorry for that.

Translated by riccichan

* Do not repost/retranslate w/o permission *

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