I find it weird that on committees, senators say "thank you" to the chairman when they get the chance to speak, or when they cede back time.

What are they thanking the chairman for? For example, is the chairman being in some sense generous by letting them speak (e.g. does he have the power to just refuse arbitrarily)? Or is the chairman responsible for the schedule and they're thanking him for the work gone into that? Or is it something else?


2 Answers 2


In official proceedings of the United States Congress, members are expected to maintain a high degree of decorum.

The repeated "thanks" (even though he may not mean it), and "my good friend, the Senator from ..." (even though she hates him), may not be sincere, but is done anyway out of common decency and respect for the institution.

So, they're not really thanking the chairman solely to express appreciation (because they are entitled to be recognized to speak). They are also being polite and respectful.

You can find more here:

  • 3
    Sounds like the May it please the court. After listening to some dozens of recordings from the Ninth Circuit, one can get sick of it. Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:20
  • @AndréParamés the cynical/straight-forward explanation is that's only because you're not the one being flattered. Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:22
  • 3
    It's also an acknowledgement that the chairman is the one in charge of the proceedings.
    – rrauenza
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 18:38

A more cynical view of the exchange than Michael_B's answer might be to ask why salespeople thank me for my time after a sales pitch, or why I thank my boss for whatever managerial approval I need to do whatever task/project I'm on, or why people in general exchange any pleasantries or suppress feelings of contempt and loathing for each other.

It never hurts to flatter someone who can do something for you (or wield their power against you), and depressingly often, hollow flattery and "decorum" actually help you get a more favorable result. It's kind of like bribery, but without the drawback of costing anything.

  • 1
    Tho too much thank you will undermine yourself, your credibility and your prestige. A bit like when saying sorry too often.
    – phoobar
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 12:40
  • Or saying sorry at all. All too often, it seems to have the opposite effect on the apologist, which is why it's surprising to me when activists demand apologies, a thing for which there is generally no upside, and which will produce few, if any, positive outcomes in terms of policy. Actions speak louder than words, in other words.
    – user285
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:05
  • 1
    Meh. Must have something to do with how you do it. I over-thank and over-apologize to great effect. Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 15:10

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