I'm increasingly being thanked for things I haven't given:
"Thank you for your patience" whilst waiting for late trains, when I was anything but patient.
"Thank you for your understanding" whilst walking up long staircases next to out-of-order escalators, and experiencing no 'understanding', just bafflement.
"Thanks in advance" in emails asking for things that I hadn't yet decided to give.
Now, being thanked for things that you haven't given sounds like a good deal. It would work at birthday parties - "John, thank you SO much for such an amazing present" - when I'd just brought a cheap card, would work really well.
Please do feel free to thank me for lots of things that I have absolutely no responsibility for.
But we all know what the Thanks-Speakers are up to in their posters, signs, announcements and emails: they want to control our response. Their hope and dream is that we will understand, or be patient, or say 'yes' to their request. But they don't ask us politely. They tell us how we should respond. Probably because they're scared of anything else.
After all, how would this sound? -
"Yes, we know: it's rush-hour and this escalator has been out-of-order for months now, so you have to walk up 100 steps with your suitcase... but it's tough here you know, we're trying to keep this overcrowded network together on a shoestring budget, we're human too you know... so we'd appreciate your patience and understanding, but if you're still really angry and want to mouth off at someone, call this number or have a bar of chocolate. Sorry."
Well, I've just read that back. And it sounds BETTER.
"Thank you for your understanding" is very 1984. It's an attempt at thought-control - "you will think THIS and nothing else", "you WILL be patient".
Maybe it works. Maybe this sly mind-trick works in pacifying the masses. I hope not. I want to see marchers on the streets with banners 'WE'RE NOT AT ALL PATIENT', 'WE DON'T UNDERSTAND ACTUALLY', 'WE DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT SHOULD BE UNDER "CONSIDERATION"'.
"Thank you for your patience" is passive-aggressive - inviting your passivity to prevent their aggression towards you - "You better be patient, or you'll be sorry".
Yet... yet, at a lower level, most people do this. Scared of a contrary response, we're all asking for things without really asking, assuming things that shouldn't be assumed. "I trust that it's fine that little Billy stays over for tea" is really saying "please could you look after Billy for longer as I'm struggling this afternoon", but is sneakily phrased to make a negative response more difficult.
So, please, please be clear.
Never start a sentence with 'I trust that...', or end an email with 'thanks in advance', just as, if you're being honest you should never say 'to be honest'.
Saying 'to be honest' is like raising a big flag that says 'I'm not usually honest', and saying 'I trust that...' means that you don't 'trust' very much at all.
Let truth and trust cut through fear... Be clear, my dears.