A Lesson in Gratitude

In doing a little bit of pokin' around the internet this afternoon, I came across this article written back in '07 by Elizabeth Mayhew for the Today show. Now, I'm not a fan of that particular morning show at this point in my life, but the contents of this article are worth reading. We all know it, but it is always good to refresh our memories as we think about coming into the fall and winter festivals and holidays.
How To Say Thank You in a Note

There is no question that the thank you note has gone the way of the 8-track tape — it’s a relic of a time gone by. More and more people rely on cell phones, email, and text messaging to communicate and acknowledge their appreciation — this is totally unacceptable. Thank you notes should take some time and thought. After all didn’t the gift giver spend more than a couple of minutes buying a gift for you? Don’t underestimate the power of a proper hand-written thank you note. The act of sitting down with pen in hand (that’s right a PEN) and writing a thoughtful note of gratitude will not only make the receiver feel good, but it will also make you feel good.

A note of thanks should be written for gifts of all kinds including holiday, wedding, birthday, shower, and birth. Hospitality, dinners, or parties should also be acknowledged. Job interviews, referrals, and references also require a proper thank you, as do condolences and other acts of kindness or generosity.

Write in blue or black ink (I sometimes use chocolate brown) and never — even if you have chicken scratch handwriting — never print thank you notes off your computer. Make sure you act in a timely manner and write the note as soon as you can. I find the longer you wait the more difficult it is to get the note written. I try to practice what I preach to my children: you can’t use, wear, eat, or drink the gift until the thank you note is in the mail. That being said, a late thank you note is better than not sending one at all. So now that you know when, for whom and the color ink to use, let's get writing! Follow these tips:

1. Acknowledge the giver

Aside from beginning your note “Dear Uncle Robert” you should mention how grateful you are for the giver’s effort and generosity. "Dear Uncle Robert, You always seem to get me exactly what I need!"

2. Keep it simple and specific

Don’t get too flowery or general with your prose. Acknowledge a gift directly by saying “thank you so much for the ______.” It is good to state early on what you are thanking someone for that way you connect the gift with the giver. If you were given money, do not list the exact amount instead write “thank for the check.”

3. Discuss use

Let the giver know how you will use the gift and say something nice about how the gift has impacted your life. If you like the gift then this should be easy to do, but if you hate it then try to find some redeeming attribute that you can mention — just don’t go overboard. If you were given money then tell the giver how you plan to use it.

"The color is so cheerful and it will certainly keep me warm this winter."

4. Link to time

You should always end a note with a mention of seeing the giver in the past or future. For example, “It was great to see you the other night at dinner. I hope we can do it again soon!” This will link the giver to you and acknowledge your past, present, and future relationship.

"I loved seeing you at the party and I am looking forward to your visiting us this spring."

5. Don’t blab

Thank you notes are meant to show your gratitude for someone else’s kindness. They are not the place to discuss what’s going on in your life — save it for an email or phone call.

6. End with love

Or end with any salutation that you feel comfortable with, but make sure you sign the note clearly. There is nothing worse than getting a note and not knowing whom it’s from.

"With love and best wishes, Name"

Other tips: When you receive a gift from a number of givers, you must write to each person separately, unless of course the gift was from a family or a collective group of coworkers. In that case, you can address the givers collectively and request that your note be circulated or posted.

Sometimes a thank you note is not enough. If a friend goes out of her way for you or friends invite you to be their houseguest for the weekend then you need to more than a note.


Ari C'rona said…
That is a great reminder that 'manners matter', my friend! So often people neglect that sort of thing these days. They actually have to go out of their way to do it - shocking, I know. :o)
Kaaren said…
I am a huge fan of the "Thank You" note. I have personalized note cards just for these occasions. People are so shocked at getting a hand-written 'thank you' that they call to thank me for the thank-you note. Funny.
Mama Cache said…
. . . now where did I put that pen?

Time to get it out again, I think.