The Importance (and Art) of the Thank You Note

My mother started making me write thank you notes from the moment I learned to write.  I mean, I clearly remember sending thank you notes on that paper with the dotted horizontal lines they make for kids practicing their letters.  I had to send thank you notes for everything.  Not just for birthday gifts, but for sleeping over at someone's house and for anyone who bought Girl Scout cookies from me and for all of my teachers at the end of the school year.  At the time, I was thoroughly annoyed by it.  They took forever to write and I had no idea what to say.  But my mom persisted.

And you know what, Mom?  I get it.  Mother is always right - always send the thank you note.  Do not be lazy.

There are so many reasons why I love a good thank you note and think you should always send one, including but not limited to:
- It's just good manners.  Do it.
- If someone can afford to send you a gift of any amount or attend any event for you, or invite you over to their home, you can certainly afford postage for a little thank you card.
- People are reassured you got their gift.  Particularly if you leave it in a big pile or card box at a wedding or birthday party.
- Thank you cards are the easiest possible way to express gratitude and get a huge reaction.  I've been thanked for my thank you notes before.  Older generations especially, they think we forgot how to send thank you notes, or worse, never learned.  (In John's family, I'm known as the sender of thank you notes.  I like this title.)
- Thank you notes are the quickest and cheapest way to ensure that someone's effort or gift was appreciated.  It also ensures that they won't regret being kind to you and might do it again sometime in the future.  An appropriate showing of gratitude is an investment in others and an investment in yourself and your relationships.

When should you send a thank you note?
Any time you receive a gift or meal, stay at someone’s home, rely on someone's generosity for a business lead or something that’s made you money.   I would argue that you even need to send one if someone attended something for you and didn't bring a gift, like say a birthday dinner or a wedding.  They took time out of their lives to show up for you, send the thank you note.

What should it say? 
This is one I learned from my mom, or maybe Emily Post.  The easiest format for a thank you note is to (a) say thank you for the specific thing they gave you or did for you (Dear Emily, thank you so much for attending our house warming party and gifting the beautiful wine bottle opener!), (b) tell them why you love it and how you'll use it (It was so great that you could come celebrate our new space and we can't wait to have you over again to put the bottle opener to good use.), (c) follow up with something specific about them or the gift, or when you'll see them next, say thanks one more time, and sign off (You're such a generous person and we can't wait to return the favor at your housewarming next month!  Thank you again for your kindness and friendship.  Love, Steph.)

The system works for cash gifts too - 'Dear Kelly, thank you so much for your generous wedding gift.  We were so happy you could be there to celebrate with us, and your gift has put us one step closer to buying our dream house.  We're lucky to have you as a friend.  I hope we can get our usual brunch soon so I can thank you again in person!  Love, Steph'

And events - 'Dear Mary, thank you for inviting me to the concert with you and your family; I'd never been before and had such a great time!  It means so much that you always include me and think of me as part of your family.  I'm always so thankful for your generosity.  Love, Steph'

It's literally 3 to 4 sentences.  You can do this.

But digital options?
Nope.  E-mails and text messages are not the same as thank you notes.  There are rare exceptions when the text can be okay, but it's generally reserved for very close friends and for something that happens often.  i.e. Tara and I do not send thank you notes when we stay at each other's houses.  We're close, so thank you in person at the end of a visit is enough, plus we do it fairly often so there's no need for a note each and every time.  And yes, it can be awkward to thank people who are online acquaintances with a paper thank you note sent in the mail, but it's generally worth the effort.  If they've helped you (sent you a lead or guest starred on your podcast), then ask for an address.  People still love getting mail that isn't bills, so they will appreciate the gesture.

And if nothing else on this list convinces you, then use it as an excuse to buy yourself some fancy new stationery.  Maybe even with a monogram.  Whatever gets you to send that thank you note.

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