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The Importance of a Handwritten Thank You Note

Writing thank you notes isn’t just about good manners and social obligations. The practice of writing thank you notes is incredibly powerful and positively impacts both your personal and professional life, as well as the life of your recipient.

Such a Simple Gesture, Such a Huge Reward

I once attended a continuing education seminar where the lecturer spoke about the power of writing thank you notes. She said that she made a habit of writing a minimum of four thank you notes per day. There was an audible gasp/groan in the room. You could almost see the speech bubbles popping up over heads:

  • “I don’t have time for that!”
  • “But, I don’t like writing!”
  • “I don’t know HOW to write a thank you note!”
  • “People don’t really care about that, do they?”

The lecturer noted that if we thought about it, there were easily four people each day who did something that made you feel good or thankful or helped you. Your note does not have to be a full letter – just a short, hand-written line or two giving sincere thanks.

Why We Don’t Write Thank You Notes

Examining why you choose not to write a thank you note is just as important as understanding why you should because it dispels misguided perceptions.

  1. We miscalculate the gratefulness of the recipient.
  2. We often make the (wrong) assumption that a person already knows our feelings (that we’re thankful). They don’t.
  3. We worry the recipient will feel awkward because a thank you note is personal.
  4. We are worried about what words to use to convey our gratitude, so we don’t write any at all.

Why You Should Be Writing Thank You Notes

  1. You let your recipient know you received their gift, service, favor, etc. and that you appreciated it. People want to be sure you received what they sent you and they like to know that it was appreciated.
  2. You create a daily habit of gratitude, improving your own attitude (essential during this crisis).
  3. You distinguish yourself from everyone else by conveying that you care enough to use your time to acknowledge them.
  4. You may create a “pay it forward” event by engendering positive feelings in others. Receiving your note may prompt them to do the same. 
  5. Create random acts of note writing! Don’t wait for big life events (holidays, weddings, births, birthdays) to remind us to express gratitude. A spontaneous thank you note creates positive feelings on both sides.
  6. People are social beings. We need to connect on a personal level. 
  7. People have basic human needs to be seen, heard and valued. You can easily meet these needs with a note.
  8. People need to know that the world still knows they exist and they matter. Your simple gesture may turn out to be the best thing for their mood, their day, their week.

Professional Thank You Notes

When you run a business, thank you notes are just as important as in your personal life. You’re building both customer and employee loyalty out of genuine gratitude. And you should – you would have no business without either of them.

Recognizing Employees

In your business, writing personal thank you notes to your employees creates a culture of recognition. You are also role modeling for all employees. Raises and bonuses are fantastic – no one wants to give that up! But never underestimate how important it is to be acknowledged and truly seen. Knowing that their contribution meant something has positive effects on their work and their loyalty. Employees who do not feel recognized are going to search somewhere else to fulfill this need.

Making a habit of saying thank you should be only one part of intentionally creating a culture of recognition at your organization. Employees who do not feel recognized are twice as likely to be searching for another job as those who do. As humans, we need to feel valued as well as valuable.

Recognizing Customers and Clients

Whether you provide a service or a product, recognizing your customers with thank you notes promotes all the same feelings listed above. You are showing your clients that you appreciate them and can’t do it without them. You’re letting them know that you care about their opinion and their purchase. You want their feedback. They matter. A handwritten thank you note can create a very loyal customer base and referrals.  

Isn’t Sending an Email or Text Message the Same Thing?

Can you hold an e-card or a text? Can you set it on your desk as a reminder of how much someone made you feel good? Do you screenshot and print out a thank you text? No. We delete emails and texts are fleeting moments in our phones. 

Would you rather your message of appreciation stand out and be remembered; or, would you prefer it be deleted and forgotten?

How Do You Start?

  1. Change your mindset to one of gratitude. Think of every encounter and action during your day and what and who you were thankful for.
  2. Don’t wait for a reason.
  3. If you are worried about what to say, there are so many examples on the Internet. But your own heartfelt words are what mean the most. It doesn’t have to be long or witty or fancy – one or two short sentences. Leave a slip of paper on your co-worker’s desk that says,

“Thank you so much for bringing in donuts this morning! I didn’t eat breakfast and they hit the spot!”

“Thank you for always being there for me. You are a true friend.”

Once you get the hang of regularly writing thank you notes and make it a habit, you’ll likely find that your writing expands to include more thoughts. Though not necessary, these little details make a big impression. Take a gift you received, for example:

“Thank you for the beautiful frame! You captured my decorating style exactly, but you always do. You are so thoughtful and sweet to think of me, especially during this challenging time. Your gift made me feel good inside and smile when I needed it most. I put a picture of us in it from when we ran that half-marathon together and almost died of exhaustion! I was so proud of us and it’s one of my favorite memories. Thank you again.”

Practicing What I Preach 

I used to write thank you notes all the time – every gift and just because, no exceptions. And after that continuing education lecture, I wrote four a day… for a while. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself (self-deluded justification) I was just too busy. I have always known this is not true. We all make time for what is important to us.

My daughter made me decide to write this blog and take stock of my own habits. She applied for a job as a Thank You Note Writer for a company that puts a hand-written note of thanks in with each order. They could have “thank you” automatically printed on the invoice or packing slip, but they don’t. They are willing to pay money for someone to handwrite a personal thank you with every order because they are genuinely thankful for their customers, and thank you notes are part of their company culture.

I’ve acknowledged my laziness and justifying behavior and I’ll be back to four a day in no time. I can only watch so much Netflix in isolation. And if you read this blog, thank you very much. I’m truly grateful to anyone who is willing to take the time to read something I’ve written. I can’t say thank you on paper for reading this, but I would if I could.