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How to Write a Thank-You Note

How to Write a Thank-You Note

When we were children, most of us were inundated with reminders of how important it is to say “please” and “thank you” when interacting with others. Though saying these things has become second nature for most of us, there’s a distinct difference between expressing thanks verbally, and doing so on paper.

Why Are Written Thank-You Notes Important?

Written notes are important for several reasons, and the first one is sincerity. As mentioned earlier, saying “thank you” is pretty much an ingrained response for most of us, and it’s probably one of the more common expressions we use on a daily basis. On our way to work, we might thank the person who holds a door open for us, the bus driver who offers us a transfer, the barista who gives us our morning coffee, the receptionist who tells us we have a call on hold, etc. The instant, reactionary “thank you” is second nature, but there’s rarely much thought put into it, and we rarely remember who thanked us for what, and who we may have thanked in turn.

It takes very little effort to thank someone verbally, but everyone knows that it takes time to sit down and put thoughts down on paper. You have to set aside a few minutes of your terribly busy schedule to reach out to someone and let them know that you appreciate something they’ve done (or said, or given you), and in our hectic lives, that’s a rare and treasured gesture. Additionally, unlike a verbal expression of thanks, a note or card can be read over and over again for years, and can be a valued reminder for someone that their actions have made a difference to a person. It’s also important to write these thanks in your own handwriting, as printed materials all look the same and are utterly impersonal.

What You’ll Need

  • A paper product: Cards are lovely and nice stationery is splendid, but a standard sheet of note paper will do in a pinch.
  • A pen: You want the message to last, and pencil graphite fades and wipes away over time.
  • Time: It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to write one of these, but if you’re unaccustomed to writing in a medium that can’t be instantly deleted, you may wish to take some time to put your thoughts in order. Hell, feel free to pre-type the message and then just copy it out by hand.
  • Sincerity: It’s important that you write “thank you” notes when you really mean them, and even if you’re writing out of necessity rather than truly intense gratitude (maybe it’s to thank your aunt for a godawful sweater, or someone who interviewed you for a job you know you’re not going to get), it’s important to do so sincerely.

How to Word Things

As mentioned with the “sincerity” comment in the previous section, even if you’re writing a thank-you note because you to, it’s important to put a bit of honest gratitude into the note. There has to have been something about the situation/item/etc. that you’re thanking the person for that you’re truly thankful for. Even if you hate the end result, think of some aspect that you feel you can thank them for honestly.

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In the case of the hideous sweater, you could say that you appreciate the effort that it must have taken to create it for you, or perhaps the colours used in it go quite well with your hair.

“Dear Aunt Helga,

I wanted to write to you to thank you for the sweater you gave me for Festivus. The colours you chose are really lovely, and I really appreciate how much time and care you put into making it for me by hand. Looking forward to seeing you at the family BBQ next year.

Warmest wishes,

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_____”

Note that you didn’t actually say that you liked the piece, or that you’ll ever wear it, or that you won’t use it to start a bonfire in the near future, but you did acknowledge that she cares about you enough to spend 300 hours knitting you something; we only have so much time here on Earth, so the fact that she made something for you is pretty damned special.

Let’s say that you’d like to thank someone for interviewing you for a job you’ve applied for. It’s good to have some thank-you cards at home for just such an occasion, so before you pop over to that interview, pre-address the envelope with the person’s office address and stamp it too; you can fill out the card at a cafe after the interview and then pop it into the nearest post box. It’ll be delivered the next day, and they’ll be impressed that you put time and effort into thanking them properly. (Hint: that might actually put you in their good books, even if you’ve botched part of the interview.)

“Dear Mr./Ms. ____

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Thank you for taking the time to meet with me this morning. I enjoyed our interview, and it was great to learn more about your company. You made me feel at ease during our discussion, and if you feel that I’m a good fit for Pete’s Pork Rind Emporium, I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.

Best regards,

____”

Keep it simple, succinct, and neutral; this is not an opportunity for you to suck up and beg for either the job itself, or at least a second interview. You’re expressing appreciation, and if they think you’re a good match, they’ll call you. Trust me on this: I’ve received enough douchey thank-you notes that were so full of sycophantic fawning that I can tell you with complete sincerity that they will not get you the job. Be gracious, and keep your dignity intact.

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Final Thoughts

There is really only one excuse for not writing a thank-you note by hand, and that is if your handwriting is truly shameful. Whether it’s illegible or looks like a 3-year-old’s crayon scrawlings, horrific handwriting is indeed grounds for printing a note or card instead of writing it out. In a scenario like this, it’s best to actually mention in the note that you’ve typed it out because your penmanship is so bad, and sign your name with pen at the bottom of the letter. (You can manage that, correct?) Really, there is no excuse for poor handwriting, but in an era when most communication is typed and children are rarely taught penmanship in schools, it’s understandable that you might be out of practice. This very lack of written communication illustrates even more perfectly why a written note is a rare and treasured thing nowadays.

Just as revisiting written love letters brings back fond memories for the recipient, re-reading thank you cards rekindles a sense of appreciation and warmth. You don’t need a special occasion to write an appreciative note to someone either; a quick letter to your partner or spouse thanking them for making you breakfast is sure to inspire a smile, and leaving a card for your favourite waitress or barista to thank them for being awesome might totally brighten their day. Know that a small gesture such as this can indeed have far-reaching repercussions, especially since those who receive thank-you notes often turn around and send them to others in turn, and your actions could have far greater impact than you can imagine.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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