The Art of the Thank You Note – aka Your Mom Was Right, Again
Don’t you just hate it when you can hear your Mom in your inner voice saying, “Don’t forget to write your thank you notes.” My Mom has been dead for 17 years and it’s as if she never left the planet for all the “do this” and “don’t do that’s” that still go on in my 60-year-old head. Thank you notes are some of those things that I can honestly say she was right about… well, there may be a few more things, too, but that is a different blog.
The funny thing is that when I write a thank you note, I feel better afterwards. Research has been done on the effects before and after writing a note of thanks. Not surprising, the studies found that writing thank you notes is good for your mental health as well as for the person receiving the note of gratitude.
One study from the University of Chicago found that people “underestimated the value of how their expression of gratitude would be received and overestimated how awkward it will be, which may keep them from engaging in the simple but impactful practice.”
Co-author Amit Kumar, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business, said, “If both parties are benefitting from this, I think that’s the type of action we should be pursuing more often in our everyday lives.”
So, if it’s something that’s good for us, like eating veggies and drinking water, why are we reluctant? Some excuses have been, “I don’t have good handwriting,” or “I write emails instead of handwritten notes,” or “I don’t know what to say.” The study says, with empirical data, that a handwritten note makes the sender and receiver feel a sense of happiness.
Recently, I returned from a Real Estate conference in another state. My intention before I left for the conference was to have meaningful conversations with 30 or more people over the period of two and a half days. I came home with 36 business cards from people whose faces I remembered as well as what we discussed. After I returned, I wrote each person a handwritten note and mentioned the conversation we had. After writing all weekend, I had a sore hand and a happy heart. The research is true. Writing these notes did make me feel happy because I was sending good will and gratitude into the universe as well as to the wonderful people I met.
So, what makes a good thank you note? I suggest personalized stationary or pretty note cards purchased at a discount store, no business branded cards. Receiving a personal note from someone on non-business stationary is just that, more personal. Here are the 6 main elements you should include in your thank you notes. You can reference this list for the first few that you write until it becomes second nature.
- Personal greeting. The greeting should reflect your personality. Either “Dear ___” or “Hi ____” is appropriate.
- Be specific. Your first sentence should include “thank you for…”.
- Why it was important to you. How did it enhance your life, work, relationship, etc.
- Look forward. Mention when you might see each other again or just that you are thinking of them in hopes that your paths will soon cross again.
- Restate your thanks. Bring up what they did again and restate your gratitude in a different way.
- Ending. Choose a warm closure for the note, i.e.: warmly, sincerely, in appreciation, many thanks, etc.
If you get a note from me it will read like this: (an example that you can copy)
What fun to meet you yesterday at Capital Grill! I’m so excited to have made your acquaintance and look forward to how we can mastermind. I have long admired you from afar so it was a great thrill to have (John) introduce us. You’ve taken your business to a level I aspire.
Per our conversation, I will follow up next week to put something on the calendar for a meeting next month. I am grateful you have agreed to meet with me once a month and look forward to seeing how I may be of service to you as well.
Amit Kumar says, “Writing gratitude letters seems to come at little or no real cost. People were composing these really thoughtful messages in just a matter of minutes. The broader message is that people should express gratitude more often, and precisely how you go about doing that might not matter that much.”
And, of course, our dear Emily Post has something to say on the subject of the thank you note.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out that pen and paper and find at least one person to write your note to right now… I’m waiting.
Just think, if more people wrote thank you notes how much appreciation, gratitude, and happiness would be unleashed in the universe! What a joyful thought.