Please don’t thank me too soon

It happened again.

I got a notice from my university saying that there was a problem with some of the university-wide software that was resulting in some services responding very slowly or not at all, and that they were working on it and apologizing for any problems that this may be causing users. So far, so good. But then they went and added “Thank you for your patience”, something that I see frequently and also hear on recordings when you call a business and there is some waiting involved to speak to a human being.

This is unnecessary and, in my view, undesirable. The writer does not know if the reader is patient. For all they know, the reader may be ranting and raving about the inconvenience. The reader may have no option but to accept the situation since there is nothing they can do about it but that is different from being patient. Thanking them in advance for an attitude that they may or may not have seems to me to be presumptuous, as if they have only one option, and can have the paradoxical effect of increasing user annoyance..

Telling people that you are aware of a problem, are working to address it, and apologizing for the inconvenience, are always good things and, to my mind, quite sufficient and the most you can and should do to mollify people. Thanking them in advance for being patient is one step too far.

This is different from ending a message with a simple ‘thank you’, because then you are thanking them for simply reading your message through to the end.


  1. says

    “Dear customer: your information has been distributed to hackers all over the internet. It is possible that your credit card may have been used to purchase drugs and porn. Please review the fine print of your cardmember agreement to see how much you owe. We wash our hands of the affair. thank you,
    The mgt.”

  2. says

    But then they went and added “Thank you for your patience”,
    The writer does not know if the reader is patient. For all they know, the reader may be ranting and raving about the inconvenience.

    Blame shifting and denying responsibility is never appreciated nor helpful, but companies regularly assume the customer caused the company’s failures.

    Microsoft’s OSes say “Windows was not shut down properly” after they crash, as if the user caused it.

    Mozilla’s Firefox says “Whoops, something went wrong” after it crashes or even when the user forcibly terminates the program via the task manager. That’s much friendlier.

  3. lanir says

    It’s suggestive. You are intended to now be aware that your patience is accepted… because it is expected. Of course you went and spoiled the whole thing by noticing that you were being prompted, which never turns out well. People tend to dislike getting orders but only if they notice.

  4. doublereed says

    This is generally good practice, to thank people for things rather than apologizing. It makes people feel good about themselves rather than feel bad for the other side.

    “Sorry for the inconvenience” reminds me of my inconvenience and makes me feel bad for the guys on the other side who are presumably trying to fix the issue. “Thank you for your patience” reminds how awesome and patient I am.

    Although it might be different when you know it’s BS or an automated message.

  5. doublereed says

    For instance, if people are being mopey and sad, they’ll say “Sorry for being all mopey and sad” which just makes me feel worse for the other person. If they say “thank you for understanding and letting me be all mopey and sad” they it makes you feel better about yourself.

    Sorry vs. Thank you is a real thing.

  6. Marshall says

    I agree with doublereed here that the “thank you for your patience” in general is a good thing. It’s possible that a few people get irritated by it, but by and large it’s a way of just being nice, and it reduces levels of aggression by people on the waiting end. I also think that the subtle psychological implication that “now if you get impatient, that’s even worse than if I hadn’t said anything at all” actually works really well.

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