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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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Published on September 23, 2020

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

6 Effective Negotiation Skills to Master

I don’t know about you, but many times when I hear the word negotiate I think of lawyers working out a business deal or having to do battle with a car salesman to try to get a lower price. Since I am in recruiting, the term “negotiation” comes up when someone is attempting to get a higher compensation package.

If we think about it, we tend to negotiate almost every day in a wide variety of things we do. Getting a handle on the important negotiation skills can be incredibly beneficial in many parts of our lives. Let’s take a look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

What is Negotiation?

First, let’s take a look at what negotiation is. Put simply, negotiation is a method by which people settle their differences. It is a process in which compromise or agreement can be reached without argument or dispute.

Anytime two people or sides disagree on something, they are almost always looking for the best possible outcome for their side. This could be from an individual’s perspective or someone representing an organization.

In reality, it’s rare that one side gets everything they want and the other side gets nothing that they are seeking. Seeking to reach a common ground of sorts where both sides feel like they are getting most of what they want is the key to being successful and maintaining the relationship.

Places We Negotiate

I’ve mentioned that we negotiate in just about all phases of our life. For those of you who are shaking your head no, I invite you to think about the following:

1. Work/Business

This one is the most obvious and it’s what naturally comes to mind when we think of the word “negotiate”.

When you first started at your current job, you might have asked for a higher salary. It could be that you delivered a huge new client to your company and used this as leverage in your most recent evaluation for more compensation. If you work with vendors (and just about every company does), maybe you worked them to a lower price or better contract terms.

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In recruiting, I negotiate with candidates and hiring managers all the time to land the best talent I can find. It’s very common to accept additional work with the (sometimes spoken, sometimes unspoken) agreement that it will benefit your career in the future.

Recently, I took over a project that was my boss was working on so that I would be able to attend a conference later in the year. And so it goes, we do this all day long at work.

2. Personal

I don’t know about you, but I negotiate with my spouse all the time. I’ll cook dinner with the understanding that she does the dishes. Who wants to mow the lawn and who wants to vacuum and dust the house?

I think we should save 10% for retirement, but she thinks 5% is plenty. Therefore, we save 8%. And don’t even get me started with my kids. My older daughter can borrow my car as soon as she finishes her chores. My younger daughter can go hang out with her friends when her homework is done.

Then, there are all those interactions in our personal lives outside our homes. The carpenter wants to charge me $12,000 to build a new deck. I think $10,000 is plenty so we agree on $11,000. I ask my neighbor if I can borrow his snowblower in the winter if I invite him over the next time I grill steak. And so on.

3. Ourselves

You didn’t expect this one, did you? We negotiate with ourselves all day long.

I’ll make sure I don’t skip my workout tomorrow since I’m going to have that extra piece of pizza. My spouse has been quiet the last few days, is it worth me asking her about, or should I leave it alone? I think the car place charged me for some repairs that weren’t needed, should I say something or just let it go? I know my friend has been having some personal challenges, should I check in with him? We’ve been friends for a long time, I’m sure he’d come to me if he needed help. I’ve got the #4 pick in this year’s Fantasy Football draft, should I choose a running back or a wide receiver?

Think about that non-stop voice inside your head. It always seems to be chattering away about something and many times, it’s us negotiating with ourselves. I’ll finish up that report that the boss needs before I turn on the football game.

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Why Negotiation Skills Are So Important

Put simply, negotiation skills are important because we all interact with other people, and not only other people but other organizations and groups of people as well.

We all rarely want the same thing or outcome. Most of the time a vendor is looking at getting you to pay a higher price for something than you want to spend. Therefore, it’s important to negotiate to some middle ground that works well for both sides.

My wife and I disagree on how much to save for retirement. If we weren’t married it wouldn’t be an issue. We’d each contribute how much we wanted to on our retirement funds. We choose to be married, so we have to come to some agreement that we both feel comfortable with. We have to compromise. Therefore, we have to negotiate.

If we each lived on a planet by ourselves, we would be free to do just about anything we wanted to. We wouldn’t have to compromise with anyone because we wouldn’t interact with anyone. We would make every choice unilaterally the way we wanted to.

As we all know, this isn’t how things are. We are constantly interacting with other people and organizations, each one with their own agenda’s, viewpoints, and opinions. Therefore, we have to be able to work together.

6 Negotiation Skills to Master

Having strong negotiation skills helps us create win-win situations with others, allowing us to get most of what we want in conjunction with others around us.

Now, let’s look at 6 effective negotiation skills to master.

1. Preparation

Preparation is a key place to start with when getting ready to negotiate. Being prepared means having a clear vision of what you want and how you’d go about achieving it. It means knowing what the end goal looks like and also what you are willing to give to get it.

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It also means knowing who you are negotiating with and what areas they might be willing to compromise on. You should also know what your “bottom line” is. By “bottom line” I mean what is the most you are willing to give up to get what you want.

For instance, several years ago, I decided it was time to get a newer car. I say newer because I wanted a “new to me” car, not a brand new car. I did my research and figured out what type of car I wanted. I decided on what must-have items on the car I wanted, the highest amount of miles that would already be on it, the colors I was willing to get it in, and the highest amount of money I was willing to pay.

After visiting numerous car dealerships I was able to negotiate buying a car. I knew what I was willing to give up (amount of money) and what I was willing to accept, things like the color, amount of miles, etc. I came prepared. This is critical.

2. Clear Communication

The next key skill you need to be an effective negotiator is clear communication. You have to be able to clearly articulate what you want to the other party. This means both clear verbal and written communication.

If you can’t clearly tell the other person what you want, how do you expect to get it? Have you ever worked through something with a vendor or someone else only to learn of a surprise right at the end that wasn’t talked about before? This is not what you would call clear communication. It’s essential to be able to share a coherent and logical vision with the person you are working with.

3. Active Listening

Let’s do a quick review of active listening. This is when you are completely focused on the speaker, understand their message, comprehend the information, and respond appropriately. This is a necessary ingredient to be able to negotiate successfully. You must be able to fully focus on the other person’s wants to completely understand them.

If you aren’t giving them your full attention, you may miss some major points or details. This leads to frustration down the road on both sides. Ensure you are employing your active listening skills when in arbitration mode.

4. Teamwork and Collaboration

To be able to get to a place of common ground and a win-win scenario, you have to have a sense of teamwork and collaboration.

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If you are only thinking about yourself and what you want without giving much care to what the other person is wanting, you are bound to wind up without a solution. The other person may get frustrated and give up if they see you are unwilling to meet them halfway or care little for what they want.

When you collaborate, you are working together to help each other get what is most important to you. The other upside to negotiating with a sense of teamwork and collaboration is that it helps create a sense of trust, which, in turn, helps provide positive energy for working to a successful conclusion.

5. Problem Solving

Problem-solving is another key negotiation skill. When you are working with the other person to get the deal done many times you’ll face new challenges along the way.

Maybe you want a new vendor to provide training on the software they are selling you but they say it’s going to cost an additional $20,000 to provide this service. If you don’t have the additional $20,000 in the budget to spend on the software but you feel the training is critical, how are you going to solve that problem?

From what I’ve seen, most vendors aren’t willing to provide additional services without getting paid for them. This is where problem-solving skills will help continue the discussions. You might suggest to the vendor that your company will also be looking to replace their financial software next year, and you’d be happy to ensure they get one of the first seats at the table when the time comes if they could perhaps lower the pricing on their training.

There’s a solution to most challenges, but it takes problem-solving skills to work through them effectively.

6. Decision-Making Ability

Finally, having strong decision-making ability will help you seal the deal when you get to a place where everyone feels like they are getting what works for them. Each step of the way you can cross off the list when you get what you are looking for and decide to move onto the next item. Then, once you have all of your must-have boxes checked and the other side feels good about things, it’s time to shake hands and sign on the dotted line. Powerful decision-making ability will help you get to the finish line together.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 effective negotiation skills to master to lead a more fulfilling life. Once we realize that we negotiate in one form or another almost every day in every phase of our lives, we realize how critical a skill it is.

Possessing strong negotiation skills will help you in nearly every one of your relationships at both the workplace and in your personal life. If you feel your arbitration tools could use some sharpening, try some of the 6 effective negotiation skills to master that we’ve talked about.

More Tips to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

Featured photo credit: Windows via unsplash.com

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