I’ve been intrigued by the recent thread of letters in the “Ask Amy” column of the newspaper about whether emailed thank you notes were acceptable. Being the curious sort that I am, I did a quick Internet search to see what “experts” were saying. It turns out that “almost never” is the answer to “when is it okay to send an email thank you note?” The exception seems to be after a job interview.
I don’t know about you, but it seems like people get all weirded out about sending a simple note of thanks. People put it off and put it off because it seems like such an onerous task because they think that the wording has to be absolutely perfect.
My advice is to simply write from the heart. When you do that, then the words flow freely and sound sincere. Lillian Eichler Watson in The Standard Book of Etiquette (1948) writes:
A thank-you note should have the ring of sincerity, achieved only when you really feel grateful and appreciative. So don’t put off writing your note of thanks. Write it quickly, while the glow is still with you. Then you won’t need to grope for words; trying to sound sincere; the words will come of their own accord.
I think of it this way: What would you say to the person if she were sitting right there? Would you quote some memorized script about the gift? Of course not! You would express delight. While doing the research for this post, I found it interesting that all of the examples from vintage etiquette books (including a 1942 Emily Post book) to modern examples found on the Internet all sound warm and conversational. The bottom line is that writing “thank you” doesn’t have to be difficult. We just have to be ourselves.
Yes, but…what about “those” gifts? The ones that make us say “huh?” to ourselves? In those cases, you use the neutral thank you phrases. My Thank You Note Site provides these suggestions:
• I’ll think of you every time I look at it (or use it).
• What an original present.
• Thank you for the beautiful card and a present on top of that!
• You shouldn’t have.
• Thanks for not only taking the time to think of me, but to send (bring) a gift as well.
• Words cannot convey my gratitude.
• Your generosity overwhelms me.
• You can have no idea how much it means to me.
• However did you find this!
• It’s stunning!
• It looks like one-of-a-kind.
• Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
Thank you notes don’t need to be very long. A beautiful notecard that reflects your personality and a short note of appreciation is all it takes to be remembered as a thoughtful person.
I think it is important that we instill within our children a habit of gratitude for gifts and thoughtful gestures, such as being a guest in someone’s home. I know a woman who never received thank you notes or any type of acknowledgment for gifts she sent to her nieces and nephews. She told me that since it didn’t seem to matter to the now college-aged children (or their parents when they were younger) whether she sent them a gift or not, she simply stopped giving anything to them. She said that no one commented about the lack of gifts, either, so she believed her assumption that they didn’t care was correct. As she was sharing this with me, she commented that she was saddened that her own siblings had been so thoughtless. She told me that a simple acknowledgment of her gesture would have gone a long way in making her feel her efforts were appreciated by them.
I want to close this post with a quote from Library Online:
Writing a thank you letter is not only extremely important but is also a common courtesy. There are various times when writing a thank you letter is appropriate – anything from a formal, after-interview thank you letter to a casual, from-the-heart thanks to the person you love or appreciate. Writing a thank you letter will always serve as a kind and conscientious gesture.
A thank you letter demonstrates thoughtfulness, which is a characteristic many employers and people value. Since so few take the time to write a thank you letter, someone who does will indeed be remembered.
Be someone who will be remembered as a thoughtful person. Write a thank you note from your heart whenever you feel gratitude (and even when you don’t but someone has done something for you).
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