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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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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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