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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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