The Art of Thank You Notes

The Art of the Thank You Note

Rule #5 – Boss Ladies set a good example for others

Never underestimate the power of gratitude. If the pen is mightier than the sword, then well-crafted thank you notes are like fire-breathing dragons. Or rocket launchers. Or… well, you get the picture.

I love technology and the fact that I can write this blog and it can be viewed at any time by anyone in almost every corner of the earth, but once upon a time (aka 20 years ago) smartphones were non-existent, you couldn’t settle a disagreement by throwing down a glove and shouting “Google It!”, and you could only reach other humans by either sending them a letter in the mail (with a stamp!), calling them from your home or work telephone, or maybe faxing them from your office. The average family did not even own a computer.

It’s worth mentioning how far we’ve come in a relatively short period of time because, as much as I enjoy the perks and conveniences of living in a digital age, what I distinctly do not enjoy is the way it has degraded our ability to connect in more meaningful ways. One of the most poignant examples of this is the way in which we express gratitude, or often fail to do so.

It amazes me how so few people compose and send thank you notes (or even say thank you) when gratitude is such incredibly valuable social currency. In fact, a Lenox etiquette poll found that nearly 5 out of every 10 people don’t say thank you. Shocking!

You should care about the way that you connect with people not because it’s the right thing to do (which it probably is), or because it will make you feel good about yourself (which it probably will), but because it can have a profound impact on the way that you are perceived both personally and professionally. Put simply, people will like you better and you will have a greater opportunity for success.

What I have found is that choosing words a little more carefully, and choosing to express them at all, can go a long way both in professional and personal relationships. This is especially true of the following phrases:

“I’m really sorry”   “Thank you so much”    “How are you?”

“Thank you!” in particular holds the power to build, bind, and even repair relationships. Think of the times you have received truly heartfelt thanks either verbally or in writing. Few things can build good will between two people the way that a sincere show of gratitude can do. “Thank you” is a polite acknowledgement that something special has happened and also provides the opportunity to reciprocate some good vibes. It closes a karmic circle, if you will.


The Rules of Thankful Engagement

1. You can never be too thankful. It’s not a particularly difficult skill to develop and it takes very little time, yet it can have such a profound impact on the recipient of your thanks. 

2. Just go for it. A child can compose an epic thank you note using less than 10 intelligible words… don’t over-think your gratitude. When in doubt, simply thank the person for their help / time / advice / gift, assure them that their generosity was valuable to you, and wish them well for the future. Sign it “sincerely” and off it goes.

3. It’s a personal thing. Even the smallest favor or gesture may be worthy of a thank you note in return. A really large favor or gesture may even call for something a little more special, like a small gift or token if you can manage it.

4. Be timely. A thank you note after a job interview or an important business meeting should follow within a day or so of the meeting, and can even be accomplished with a free digital messenger service like Paperless Post. A thank you note for a wedding gift would be ideal within a few weeks of your receipt of the gift. I say the sooner the better, but better late than never.

5. Be creative. This is optional, but it might make it easier to form a habit of showing gratitude regularly if you enjoy the process. Invest in some nice stationery, fun stamps, special pens, washi tape or other little crafty details. While perhaps not always appropriate for professional thank you notes (depends on the personality of your recipient), if glitter and rhinestones are your thing then why not bedazzle the envelope with Liberace-inspired gusto?

6. If you’d like to say thank you with a special token or gift, try to choose something significant to your relationship with that person or something that you know that they will enjoy. When all else fails, I love to stalk the Pinterest pages of my friends or clients to determine what might be a big hit. Taylor pinned a pair of hot pink Nike Free shoes? Find out what size she is (ask someone other than Taylor if you can) and enjoy the stunned look on her face when she opens the box and wonders what Jedi mind tricks you have been using on her.

7. No expectations. When you send a thank you note, don’t expect anything in return. Someone did something for you, then you said thanks. The transaction is technically over at that point.

8. No excuses. Maybe part of the problem is culture and upbringing. If no one regularly encourages you to consider the effects of your words and actions on other people, then it stands to reason that you’re probably going to behave in a self-interested manner and think nothing of it. But the beautiful thing about humans is our ability to transform, develop, and grow. If you haven’t been expressing your gratitude, it’s never too late to begin doing so. It will be our little secret.



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